Georgetown hospital plans head to zoning review

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The project calls for an addition on the east side of the existing hospital. (rendering courtesy of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital)

The long-anticipated expansion of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital will be the topic at a Zoning Commission hearing next week amid broad support for the ambitious plans.

The hospital’s new medical/surgical pavilion would cover about 450,000 square feet of the 3800 Reservoir Road NW property, connecting to the east side of the existing hospital building on the site of surface parking lots. The project would include 156 private patient rooms, 32 state-of-the-art operating rooms, outdoor green space, a rooftop helipad and a 644-space, three-level underground parking garage.

Despite the magnitude of the project, it has won support from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) and other key stakeholders, due to compromises established during an extensive Georgetown Community Partnership process. Joe Gibbons, chair of ANC 2E and a partnership member, praised Georgetown University and MedStar officials for ensuring that residents’ and students’ opinions were factored into the plans.

“Everyone is involved,” Gibbons said. “Everyone gets a voice and a seat a table.”

The Office of Planning also chimed in on Friday with enthusiastic support for the zoning application. “The project proposes to manage transportation demand, improve community relations, increase sustainability and energy efficiency, and improve campus open space and student spaces, while allowing the hospital to meet and improve their programmatic and space needs,” the agency’s report states.

Hospital officials have said they’ve outgrown the existing 1946 building. (Brian Kapur/The Current/August 2016)

The community partnership and the Planning Office had encouraged the Zoning Commission to approve the hospital’s plans last fall, but the Zoning Commission elected to delay consideration to allow a more thorough review after approving the university’s 2017-2036 campus plan in December. The commission did approve the general outline of the hospital development as part of the campus plan, and on June 8 it will review the specific details of the design and impact.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present our zoning application at the upcoming hearing,” MedStar Georgetown spokesperson Karen Alcorn wrote in an email to The Current. “We have enjoyed working closely and collaboratively with the community and our University partners in the planning process to help us bring this much needed, state-of-the-art facility to fruition.”

The addition would replace a surface parking lot with new medical facilities, green space and underground parking. (rendering courtesy of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital)

Hospital officials have said that construction will take three to four years once the Zoning Commission grants its approval. According to the hospital’s zoning filings, patient care will continue normally in the existing 1946 building during construction and satellite parking will be available until the new underground garage is ready.

A detailed construction management plan, developed through the Georgetown Community Partnership, promises a series of key points:

“Complete transparency of all information and data; clear lines of accountability and points of contact; communication procedures and methods that maximize effectiveness for the community; a comprehensive staging plan that minimizes community impact and traffic; construction workers brought to the site via shuttles and no workers parking in the community; truck traffic reduction strategies using flaggers and wireless technology, eliminating idling of trucks on Reservoir Road and in the vicinity; off-site parking to replace the loss of on-site parking during construction; noise, trash and vermin mitigation strategies; and repairing and resurfacing any part of Reservoir Road or other roads within the community damaged by construction traffic.”

The Zoning Commission has the authority to set its own conditions of approval for the hospital plan, as MedStar needs approval to operate in a residential zone and to waive several detailed regulations.

The project also needed design approval from the Old Georgetown Board because it’s located within the Georgetown Historic District, and won approval in September after multiple design revisions.