Providence Portland neighbors see need but wonder about impact

By the end of the year, managers at Providence Portland Medical Center in Northeast Portland hope to begin the first phase of an expansion that will add a new cancer treatment center, at least 100 more hospital beds and a parking garage for 750 vehicles.

The plan is awaiting City Council approval, which could come in mid-May. Medical center officials and members of the Center Neighborhood Association currently are negotiating a 'good neighbor' agreement.

The hospital complex Ñ which sits on a tightly packed 22-acre site bounded by Northeast 53rd and 47th avenues, Northeast Glisan Street and Interstate 84 Ñ has not expanded in at least 10 years, said administrator Dave Underriner.

An increasing demand for services has meant 'days when we are completely full,' he said.

The burden has increased on the hospital because of population growth, aging baby boomers and obsolete buildings that do not accommodate new technological equipment, Underriner said.

Providence's expansion plan anticipates the medical center's growth for both immediate and longer-term needs.

The hospital's neighbors say they understand Providence's need to expand. However, they are concerned about the impact on the neighborhood as a result of increased traffic on Glisan Street and hundreds of new parking spaces, said Brian Bainnson, land use representative for the neighborhood association.

Bainnson said neighbors were unhappy that Providence did not negotiate a formal good neighbor agreement with the association before submitting the plan to the city's planning and review process.

Without the agreement, Bainnson said neighbors believed 'there wasn't a good dialogue' between residents and hospital administrators.

Under instructions to come up with a good neighbor agreement, representatives of both sides have agreed to meet with a mediator from the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, mainly to foster better communication between the two sides, Bainnson said.

The council in all likelihood will approve the expansion once the agreement is drawn up, Commissioner Dan Saltzman said.

The expansion would be implemented in phases, allowing the hospital to expand as needed in the next decade and beyond, Underriner said.

Overall, the master expansion plan calls for an additional 400,000 square feet of hospital space, 180,000 square feet of medical office space and additional parking for nearly 1,600 cars.

Providence won't need that much space in the next 10 years, so the first expansion phase calls for a parking structure for 750 cars and a new cancer center that would include patient services, alternative therapies, a spa and research facilities all in one building.

The master plan by Portland architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership allows for the center to reach a height of up to 150 feet, or nine stories, but Underriner said it's not yet clear whether the building would be that high once final plans are adopted.

'We're looking to 'shell in' several of the floors of the building even if we won't need that space for a long time,' he said. 'That will allow for future growth without having to build on top' of the building when more space is needed.

To make room for the new center and parking garage, Providence will demolish an older building on the northwest side of the center's campus that currently houses support services for the child center.

The services will be placed in a new building that will be part of the parking structure.

The hospital is licensed for 483 hospital beds but currently has only 370. The master plan calls for an additional 80 to 140 beds.

By moving all cancer-related services into a new building, the hospital will create more space in current buildings for additional beds and medical offices, Underriner said.

Contact Mary Bellotti at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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