Thursday, January 10, 2008

new washington adventist promises jobs, growth for east county

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Students talk about Kids Ride Free cuts; Woodside Forest debates significance of "Watson House"; A Happy Birthday to local resident (and my mother) Cammie Reed.

For nine months, Washington Adventist Hospital has been planning to move from its current campus in Takoma Park. Its proposal goes before the Planning Board this summer.

Barely two months old, the Allen Chapel AME Church on Fairland Road was an ideal place for Washington Adventist Hospital President Jere Stocks to discuss the future of his hospital - and of Calverton, its potential new home - Monday night at a community meeting.

"The East County hasn't had enough investment," Stocks explains to a few dozen East County residents, many of whom were members of Allen Chapel. "And we need to do a lot to provide development - and the right kind of development."

A century after opening as the Washington Sanitarium on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, the hospital has outgrown its thirteen-acre campus. With aging facilities, no room to expand and limited access from narrow, two-lane roads, Washington Adventist had to look elsewhere. Nine months ago, it announced the purchase of forty-eight acres on Plum Orchard Drive in Calverton for a new facility.

"It would take a miracle" to remain in Takoma Park, says Stocks, who adds that the old campus would still offer health care to the local community. "Of course, we believe in miracles - but from a practical standpoint, it wouldn't work."

what will the new hospital have to offer? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The proposed Washington Adventist Hospital, located on Plum Orchard Drive in Calverton, would include land for a new fire station.

If the hospital is approved by the Planning Board this summer, it could be completed by 2012. Designed by internationally-renowned architecture firm RTKL - also responsible for the new FDA campus in White Oak and the Downtown Silver Spring complex - the new 700,000-square foot facility will boast 290 private rooms, 2,100 parking spaces in two garages, and 250,000 square feet of office space for physicians. It would also take advantage of a four-acre "lake" on the site, which was originally intended for a corporate headquarters. Landscaped "healing gardens" would hug the lakefront, as would a "faith center" with meeting rooms open for public use.

Up to 3,000 new jobs could be produced by the new hospital, with an emphasis on local contractors, according to Stocks. In the future, the property could also accommodate a daycare center for employees, along with a site for a new fire station that would be donated to Montgomery County.

While exact figures for the relocation have not been released, the president explained that renovating the current facility wouldn't be cost-effective. In a hospital-led study of expansion options, the first phase of renovation alone would cost $135 million. "It's a substantial investment, but it's the right thing to do," Stocks repeated throughout his ninety-minute presentation.

Many of the people in attendance were supportive of the hospital's plans, though there were concerns about traffic. "There are still these major things with transportation," says Frank Cockerell of Calverton, who took offense to Stocks' insistence on referring to the hospital's new location as "White Oak." "You say 'White Oak' but you should be saying 'Calverton' . . . we are jammed, and it's already bad now."

Hospital representatives noted that the hospital's new location would be literally in the center of its patient base, which stretches from Layhill in the west to Landover in the east and is evenly split between Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Stocks added that a proposed extension of Industrial Parkway could provide additional access to the hospital, along with the FDA campus and LifeSci Village, the proposed mixed-use development at the current Percontee quarry on Cherry Hill Road.

All of these projects would drastically improve the quality of life in East County, insists Stocks, an Ashton resident. "I'm an east side community kind of person," he says. "I'm not a 270 corridor person. No offense if you're from the 270 corridor, but I think that we've been neglected . . . and this [hospital] deals with that."

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