With a growing need for more space, two of Hartford’s largest hospitals are planning to build a new medical center tower in the city.
Hartford Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are proposing to construct a new 11-story, $35 million medical office on Washington Street, near downtown Hartford.
The office tower, which has been in the works for more than a year, received city approval earlier this month. While there are still many unanswered questions — like how the project will be financed and what exactly will be housed in it — hospital officials say the tower will eventually be built.
“We are out of space and need to expand,” said Kevin Kinsella, vice president of Hartford Hospital. “We have the approvals to go ahead and construct this building.”
Kinsella said the project is in the “internal planning stage,” but a site plan has already been developed, and it has received the go-ahead from the planning and zoning commission.
The proposed office building is part of a larger strategic facilities plan Hartford Hospital is developing that takes into account the existing and future needs of its South End campus, Kinsella said.
Hartford Hospital would occupy about three-quarters of the new building, while the Children’s Hospital would take up the remaining space.
Both are attracted to the site because of its proximity to their main campuses.
What exactly will be housed in the tower hasn’t been finalized, but most likely it will be for outpatient primary care services.
The plan calls for demolishing the vacant building located at 216-218 Washington St., and preserving the façade of the building on 224 Washington St. to use as part of the new 11-story complex. Both buildings are vacant and boarded up, serving as blight to the community, city officials said. The site plans also call for new landscaping in the area as well as a new plaza.
The properties are owned by the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, or SINA, which is a partnership organization between Trinity College, Hartford Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. SINA has worked to revitalize the south-central part of the city with new housing and economic development projects, including the $112 million Learning Corridor.
Kinsella said SINA acquired the Washington Street properties a number of years ago with the hope of converting it into elderly housing, but was unsuccessful in securing state and federal funds to do so. As a result the buildings have remained vacant.
Besides providing new office space, the medical tower will revitalize a section of the city — just a few blocks from downtown — that could use a facelift, officials said.
“The big thing for the neighborhood is that this new facility will get about 200 pairs of feet on the street a day,” said Luis C. Cabán, SINA’s executive director. “For the businesses in that area, it will be a great boost.”
It has not been determined which entities will be the primary developers of the proposed medical center. It could be SINA, or the individual hospitals, Kinsella said.
Crosskey Architects is the architect and To Design is the civil engineer on the project, city records show.
Kinsella said it will take at least another six months to secure financing. He said the partners will be reaching out to multiple sources to fund the project.
Martha Schall, president of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation, said the hospital has the need for additional clinical physician space because of the greater demand for its services. She said the hospital sees about 270,000 patients a year, which is much greater than the current facility on 282 Washington St., was meant to handle.
“It’s all part of the natural growth because of the need for our services,” Schall said.
Some commercial real estate experts have speculated that the passage of the new health care reform law will lead to a surge in medical office construction.
A recently published report from the commercial real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, for example, estimates that nearly 60 million square feet of new medical office space will be needed in the U.S. between now and 2019 due to the expansion of coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, including hundreds of thousands in Connecticut.
Besides the new office tower, Hartford Hospital is also trying to build a new $47.5 million parking garage at the corner of Seymour Street and Retreat Avenue. But construction on the 1,235-vehicle lot isn’t likely to start until 2011 at the earliest, Kinsella said.