Community Post

Swedish dealt setback vs. community members, lose hearing examiner decision on expansion

In our three years of covering real-estate issues on CDNews, we can’t ever remember a case where neighborhood residents won an appeal before the city’s hearing examiner.

But that all changed today, when community leaders learned that they’d won their hearing on the controversial proposed expansion of Swedish Hospital east across 18th Avenue.  The low-rise office buildings, between Cherry and Jefferson, would back up against a row of single-family houses. 

Appelants made the case that the proposal to put medical offices on that block violated the hospital’s Master Institution Plan, and would require a “major amendment” to that plan before moving forward. That more complicated process would give the community a greater voice to determine the parameters of any expansion, vs. just allowing Swedish to move forward with their plans otherwise.

Quoting from the decision:

Considering this MIMP as a while, and harmonizing all of its provisions, the original intent was that approved development with the greatest bulk, scale and intensity be concetnrated on the central campus block … and significantly reduced at the eastern edge along the half-block abutting residential development on 19th Avenue.

 The (Sabey) proposal is not consistent with the original intent of the MIMP.  The bulk, scale and intensity of over 131,000 square feet of medical office and retail space, and parking for 344 vehicles, massed along the entire block on 18th Avenue far exceeds the bulk, scale and intensity of the 48,000 square-foot structure with 30 parking spaces, and the 3,500 share foot structure

Community leaders are speculating that Sabey, the property developer working with the hopital, will likely avoid going through the major amendment process, and will instead just move forward with a completely new plan for their Cherry Hill campus, something that better fits their timeline and was the preferred option for the community from the beginning. That process would include a large amount of neighborhood involvement, and could give Swedish the option of placing the intended medical office buildings on other more central areas of the campus. 

Sabey also has the opportunity to appeal the hearing examiner’s decision to Superior Court within the next twenty-one days. However, the outcome of that process is long and uncertain, potentially making it a bad bet for the two companies.

0 thoughts on “Swedish dealt setback vs. community members, lose hearing examiner decision on expansion

  1. The Squire Park Community Council was one of the parties taking part in the appeal of this decision. It may be important to say that the Community Council is well aware that there will be future expansion on this hospital campus and is not trying to stop that. However, SPCC asked the Hearing Examiner to uphold the Major Institution Master Plan process against serious overreaching by the developer and DPD.

    The Providence MIMP was developed more than fifteen years ago and was adopted for a very different institution. Since the Sabey Corporation purchased half of the former Providence campus the development goals are not the goals of Providence. The size of the buildings are different, the purpose of the buildings are different, the amount and kind of traffic they will attract are different.

    Times change. That’s understood. But, rather than starting a new Master Plan several years ago when Sabey took over development of the campus, Swedish and Sabey tried to argue that their plans fit within the meaning of the old MIMP. And, in a further stretch, as the existing Master Plan was about to reach the City Council-mandated fifteen year expiration date, Sabey and Swedish sought and received a two-year extension of the old plan.

    The reason this decision of the Department of Planning and Development was overturned, unlike so many others as Scott mentions, is that DPD was so clearly off base. SPCC and the other neighbors of Swedish Medical Center are looking forward to the institution’s future participation in the Master Plan process as intended by the City Council whenever institutions expand in residential areas.
    If that Master Planning process is respected by all concerned, then it should result in a plan that everyone can live with, just as the 1994 Providence Master Plan process did.

  2. Did Sabey decide to pursue a major amendment? Has the original MIMP expired, or are they working up a new one? Are they planning a building that meets the original MIMPs intent? Did they ever appeal the hearing examiner’s decision? Any information is appreciated. Thanks!