The second phase of Mercy Hospital’s plan to consolidate operations to the Fore River campus includes an addition to the hospital and construction of a surgical center. The center would be built on the site of the man-made wetland, seen at the right. The wetland was required as part of the contract zone for the first phase of the project. Courtesy photo

PORTLAND — More than a decade after finishing the first phase of its relocation from State Street to a site by the Fore River, Mercy Hospital was back before the Planning Board to start the review process for phase two.

The second phase, which is in the early stages of Planning Board review, includes a large addition to the hospital building and the construction of a nearly 35,000-square-foot ambulatory surgical center on the site of the property’s man-made wetland. It also calls for an additional parking lot.

Phase 1, which included a 138,000-square-foot hospital, 82,000-square-foot medical building and associated parking, was completed in 2008. Mercy Hospital President Charlie Therrien told the Planning Board last week that the hospital had anticipated starting the second phase shortly after the first one was completed, but ran into a snag.

“Unfortunately, like other hospitals in Maine and across the country, we ran into some financial challenges and had to delay the project. Due to a significant financial turnaround over the last three-plus years, we are in a position now to start the planning to ultimately get down to the consolidated Fore Rover property,” he said.

James Rather, the city’s development review manager, said the Planning Board should pay attention to how the plan impacts wetlands and how it gels with a contract zone agreement laid out in 2001 allowing a medical campus to be built on the site. The existing man-made wetland was a condition of that agreement.

Impact to the wetlands is one of Planning Board member David Silk’s chief concerns.

“Once you get rid of the wetlands, you’ve done away with the natural feature of the site and eliminated a key component of the contract zone agreement,” he said. “If you are going to eliminate a key component of the contract zone, at least my two cents is, it is not a Planning Board call. It is a council call.”

Caitlin Cameron, the city’s urban design planner, said staff is not proposing any large regulatory changes to the contract zone agreement as a result of the phase 2 proposal, but the document may need to be tweaked to reflect the “differences between what the applicant is proposing” now versus when the agreement was finalized.

Mary Costigan, an attorney with Bernstein Shur, said the contract zone agreement is intended to be a document that can be updated as the project unfolds.

“It assumes as buildings continues, as phases continue, an update to that will necessarily follow.”

Construction on the property will not end with phase 2. Another phase is planned. The hospital, Therrien said, is building “what we need now on budget and make patient access as easy as possible and building future construction projects as health care evolves and the need arises.”

The goal, Therrien said, remains to consolidate services still at the State Street building to the Fore River campus.

Portland resident David Small, who served on the hospital’s board of directors for 30 years, said the hope has been to fully move to the Fore River site by 2018, the 100th anniversary of the hospital being founded.

“We are not too far off considering the general economy and the ups and downs of health care. We desperately need your support,” he told the Planning Board, “to get rid of the redundancies and consolidate onto one campus. I appreciate your consideration and hope you will approve the plan without too many enormous alterations because we have very strict budgetary constraints.”

 

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