Swedish Medical Center and the Sabey Corporation unveiled on Thursday night an attention-getting vision for future growth at their Central District campus in which the population of the campus would increase three-fold. The campus, between 15th and 18th Avenues and E. Cherry and E. Jefferson Streets – originally Providence Hospital – is currently occupied by Swedish Medical Center, Northwest Kidney Center, and several tenants of the Sabey Corporation. Swedish and Sabey are embarking on the process of developing a “Major Institution Master Plan”, required by the Seattle Land Use Code for medical centers and universities, which are given the right to develop in residential zones with buildings of a size that are not allowed to other developers. In return for that right, the City Land Use Code gives a Citizens Advisory Committee, and ultimately the City Council, the obligation of fashioning a plan that balances institutional growth and the surrounding neighborhood’s vitality and livability.
At present the institution has about 1500 parking spaces. Swedish and Sabey are asking for a plan with 3000 additional spaces, for a total of 4500 structured parking spaces. Current Swedish and Sabey buildings measure about 1.2 million square feet. In the future there could be up to 3 million square feet.
Two alternative conceptual schemes to accommodate this growth were described. One, called the “dispersal” alternative, would expand the institution’s campus boundaries on three sides — to the north, east and south. The current height limit for institutional development on 18th Avenue, bordering a single-family neighborhood to the east, would increase from 37 feet to 90 feet. Expansion areas north of Cherry would have height limits of 50 or 65 feet, south of Jefferson, up to 50 feet. The greatest height limit would be 200 feet between 15th and 16th Avenues. Currently, the greatest height limit for the campus is 105 feet, (although the tower of the former Providence Hospital, now called James Tower, exceeds that height.)
Another alternative conceptual scheme, called the “concentrated” alternative, calls for a smaller boundary expansion, limited to one parcel at the northwest corner of 16th and E. Cherry. Proposed height limits include a 200 foot limit along the west edge of the campus and a 90 foot limit along the east edge. 18th Avenue and 16th Avenue would be vacated under this proposal.
Over coming months, the Citizens Advisory Committee will meet to react to these proposals, with the goal of producing a Major Institution Master Plan to guide growth over the next several decades. Numerous public meetings will be held, the next on February 21, at 6:00 P.M. in the James Tower on the Swedish/Sabey Campus, 557 18th Avenue.