Friday, September 26, 2008
Posted by Hunter on 9/26/2008 02:31:00 PM
Plans for the proposed expansion of Bethesda's Suburban Hospital went before the Montgomery County Planning Board yesterday morning. The expansion is a hot button issue for administrators and local residents alike, as it would nearly double the hospital's footprint on its 15.2 acre Old Georgetown Road site - leading to road closures and an extensive reconfiguration of hospital services. Board members were quick to note that they had received "several pounds of correspondence" regarding the matter.
It’s easy to see why. Plans drafted by Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket call for the demolition of the neighboring, 17,000 square foot Lambert building, the hospital's current parking facility and 23 private residences. In their stead, a new 4-story, 300,000 square foot building will include private patient rooms, physician office space and a new Surgical Wing that will house 15 high-tech operating rooms. Additionally, a new 7-story, 1,138 space parking garage will also be added to the site. These measures would bring the number of patient beds to 294 upon completion in 2011.
The Planning Board summarily approved a measure to abandon Lincoln Street, which will provide an additional 36,126 square feet of right of way between Old Georgetown Road and Grant Street. The current emergency entrance on Lincoln would be relocated to McKinley Street on the opposite side of the Suburban facility. After hearing a marathon of pro and con testimony from 40 or so homeowners in the area, the Board approved the expansion proposal in a 3-2 vote. Final word are whether or not the special exception to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan granted by the Council can now move forward will come from the Board of Appeals, when and if the case is brought before them (as it almost surely will be).
Suburban Hospital was built in 1949 and expanded out to its current form between 1955 and 1964. Hospital administrators insist that the new construction would allow them to expand into new state-of the-art fields such as robotic and radiologically guided surgery – important additions for one the nation’s top ranked trauma centers. Their efforts are being countered by the Huntington Terrace Citizens Association, who worry over negative impact on property values. In turn, hospital supporters have formed a coalition of their own, Suburban Hospital 2020. You can watch the fireworks fly for yourself when public hearings are held on October 6th, 7th, 14th and 17th.