Several New Rochelle City Council members were full of praise for the medical office building and parking garage that Sound Shore Medical Center wants to build on its campus along Washington Avenue.
Councilman Al Tarantino sees it as a catalyst that could help get downtown humming.
“A project like this can be the start of something like that,” he said Tuesday, when medical center President and Chief Executive John Spicer addressed the council with the president of the company who would construct the building.
The project, a five-story, $35 million building for 50 to 60 doctors, still needs to obtain city planning approvals, and the public will have chances to speak about it. But the council members like what they saw so far.
Tarantino has a strong interest in downtown New Rochelle. He’s the longtime owner of Talner Jewelers on Main Street.
Councilman Ivar Hyden, who owns another downtown business, the Backstreet Gallery & Framing, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the presentation.
If readers of this blog have any thoughts on how the project could impact the area, please send comments along. As I wrote last Thursday, the building is expected to help the hospital by streamlining health care, sharpening Sound Shore’s edge in a competitive field.
“For the future of the institution and for the medical community here in New Rochelle, we’re putting a lot of faith in this project and our attempt to get it off to a good start,” Spicer told the council on Tuesday.
It’s part of a larger plan that also includes a $6 million or $7 million expansion of the emergency room, expected to begin this spring.
The new medical office building would sit on Washington Avenue near Glover Johnson Place. The parking structure – four levels with 530 spaces – would fill the block bounded by Glover Johnson, Washington, Warren Street and Guion Place.
Downtowns benefit from having more people working nearby, and it doesn’t hurt if they make doctors’ salaries. But how would it help the city around the medical of the doctors in the new building are, for the most part, those already working near the hospital?
Tarantino mentioned two ways when I spoke to him Wednesday. First of all, he said, new, modern office space can keep doctors who now occupy aging offices from leaving town.
“I’ve always used New Rochelle doctors and some of the doctors I use have moved into Rye, they’ve moved into Purchase,” he said.
That may not add new life, but it can preserves what’s there. And the building is expected to draw some doctors from outside areas.
Second, the offices that the doctors leave for the new building present more opportunities. They could be converted to, say, an assisted living facility, Tarantino said. Or, he speculated, the owners of the buildings with the offices being vacated might take the cue and upgrade the offices to match the new space, attracting still more physicians.
Anthony Lampasona, president of Landmark Healthcare Facilities, led the presentation Tuesday, and said he hopes to begin building the structure in December, and to finish it a year later, a schedule he acknowledged is “very aggressive.”
One challenge will be parking during construction. The building and parking garage would both be built on existing lots, in a neighborhood already crowded. City Development Commissioner Michael Freimuth said several measures can be taken, including using spaces in nearby lots and garages with shuttle services. When it is built, the parking structure can help alleviate the neighborhood parking crunch overnight, according to a packet of information on the project from Lampasona.
Lampasona hit several notes that are dear to local officials and downtowns. He noted that the property, a doctors’ parking lot now exempt from taxes as part of the hospital’s property, would pay city taxes with the building because Landmark Healthcare is not a non-profit company.
And, while the company is based in Milwaukee, Lampasona said Sound Shore’s building would be constructed by local companies.
“We don’t have any companies that follow us around the country,” he said. “We keep it local.”