Why St. Luke’s Boise Expansion Plan Has Uncertain Prognosis

Jul 6, 2015

The Boise City Council Tuesday will consider a revised master plan for St. Luke’s downtown hospital. A public hearing on the plan last week drew so much testimony for and against that the meeting lasted until 1 a.m.  As a result, the council delayed its vote to this week.

There are a lot of changes in St. Luke’s new  plan and a lot of issues that are generating pushback from neighbors and others in the city. There’s differing ideas on what the hospital should be in the community, and there’s competing philosophies on growth and planning. But to boil it down to the biggest sticking point: hospital leaders want to construct a building in the middle of a public street. They want to buy a section of Jefferson Street just north of the hospital's main building.

St. Luke’s community relations director Theresa McLeod says the hospital needs more room.

“Every week we run out of bed space,” McLeod says. “So we definitely need to add more hospital beds, but also by our licensing agencies we are required to have more space, for example, in operating rooms.”

That expansion onto Jefferson Street. would require reworking traffic routes some residents use to connect with the rest of the city, including downtown. But McLeod says the hospital will pay for it.

“What we are offering and committed to doing for the community’s giving up a street is not just mitigating what’s required, but truly enhancing the greater connectivity of that whole area,” McLeod says.

McLeod says the traffic flows near Saint Luke’s are already problematic and the hospital will make them better for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. But Deanna Smith with the East End Neighborhood Association doesn’t buy it.

“It’s pretty rare that you can disconnect a piece of the grid anywhere and have whatever you bring in be an improvement versus just a mitigation,” Smith says.

Smith says St. Luke's is a great hospital and she’s not against it expanding.

“The way they want to do it is the wrong way to utilize land in an urban context," Smith says. “It’s very sprawly. It’s sprawl, that’s what it is.”

Smith wants the hospital to back up, enlist the help of neighbors and the city and make a new plan. But Theresa McLeod says St. Luke’s has considered other options and there’s no other affordable way to get the room the hospital needs in its current location. 

The expansion plan needs approval from the Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District.  

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