Samaritan Medical Center to resolve parking issues due to addition

WATERTOWN — Samaritan Medical Center officials are already working on solving some parking issues associated with the hospital’s proposed $10 million expansion project that would place its maternity ward and pediatric units on the same floor.

At a Tuesday Planning Board meeting, hospital officials outlined how they plan to solve the parking shortage at the sprawling Washington Street campus that would result from constructing the addition.

They also unveiled plans for the three-story, nearly 18,000-square-foot addition that would devote the third floor primarily to the care of children and mothers. Planning Board members took no action on the site plans for the project, deciding it would be better to wait until they see what the separate parking lot project would entail.

To add more parking, Samaritan plans to expand an existing parking lot on Woodruff Street by demolishing three houses and a former doctor’s office. Other parking spaces would be added on Sherman Street, which would give the hospital enough parking, Samaritan officials said.

Planning Board Chairwoman Sara S. Freda contended holding off on approving the site plans while the hospital continued to work on the parking project.

“I think you have to work on some loose ends that can connect,” she said.

City officials are concerned about the number of parking spaces that would remain at the hospital since the project would eliminate some. The hospital is required to have 1,403 spaces but was going to end up with 1,254, according to Planning Department documents.

The addition would be built parallel to Sherman Street and at the back of the medical center, city officials said. The project would include a 4,550-square-foot upgraded maternity ward and moving the pediatrics department to that floor, officials said.

The third floor also would include labor-delivery and post-maternity areas, pediatrics and a second operating room, said Thomas H. Carman, Samaritan’s president and chief executive officer. The new maternity ward/pediatrics unit would end up getting its own entrance and parking lot, so expectant mothers would no longer have to go through the emergency department or the main entrance at the front of the hospital.

“It’s a very stressful time not to know where to go,” Mr. Carman said.

The project also would add in-patient mental health care on the second floor and the morgue, a storage room and loading dock would be located on the first floor. Work on the addition is slated for this spring and to be completed in 2017.

The site plan also indicates that some parking spaces would be eight feet from the street’s margin, not the required 20-feet setback needed with hospitals and nursing homes, so the project needs a variance.

In November, Samaritan purchased a three-story medical office building on the hospital campus from owner Rothschild Breuer and Associates, Syracuse, for $14.4 million. Two years ago, the hospital constructed a two-level connecting structure, linking the hospital with Samaritan Keep Home.

In recent years, Samaritan also completed a $61 million expansion and renovations that totaled 71,500 square feet and adding a parking garage.

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer