Island’s largest health care facility planned for Madison Ave.

The city approved plans for what will be the island’s largest medical center and one of its largest assisted living facilities. While local developers are touting the project as an answer to many of the island’s health and elder care needs, some residents are expressing concern about its size and scope.

The story below focuses on the buildings themselves and on the project’s first phase, which is likely to be the 47,700-square-foot assisted living facility.

I also talked with doctors and other folks about the planned medical building and the kinds of services the island needs, but there wasn’t room in this story for all that. Stay tuned for a story about the medical side. And in the meantime, drop me a line about where you see gaps in medical service on Bainbridge, and I’ll try to work it into the story.

Plans for Bainbridge Island’s largest health care facility move forward
By Tristan Baurick

A project taking shape on the outskirts of Winslow will soon boast the island’s largest medical center and it’s second largest assisted living facility.

Dubbed Island Medical Center, the combined 75,000-square-foot development would sit on a 5.4-acre parcel near the Madison Avenue and New Brooklyn Road intersection and bordering State Route 305. The project recently earned city approval after the MRJ Constructors development company obtained a conditional use permit allowing the commercial project in a residential zoned area.

Island Medical Center “will bring a critical service to the island,” said MRJ president Rolf Hogger, calling the project a combination of a “state-of-the-art medical facility, as well as a needed assisted living facility.”

At 27,700 square feet, the two-story medical building would be about 9,000 square feet larger than the Virginia Mason Winslow clinic, currently the island’s largest medical facility. The building would likely provide offices for medical specialists, such as cardiologists and radiologists, according to its architect Jim Morss.

The proposed 53-unit assisted living building would, at 47,700 square feet, be a slightly smaller than the 20-year-old Madison Avenue Retirement Center but would house the same number of people (see above image). The three-story building will have 30 feet of frontage along Madison and 96 surface parking spots on the east side of the property.

MRJ plans to cut the property in half and sell a portion to Assisted Living Northwest, the Bainbridge-based company that owns Madison Avenue Retirement Center and the island’s two other large elder care facilities. ALN will break ground in May and open the building in the spring of 2010. MRJ will hold off on building the medical facility until a roster of tenants is lined up.

Although aimed at medical care in areas where the island is underserved, some residents say plans for the development’s buildings and services are out-of-step with the island’s needs and values.

“The size of these buildings is way out of character for a residential area,” said Olaf Ribeiro, president of the Murden Cove Preservation Association, a group representing homeowners in the neighborhood.

Ribeiro, who may appeal the city’s approval of the project, and others are concerned that the development will increase traffic and light pollution in the area, and reduce the tree-lined scenery along 305.

“I do not want to lose the peace and quiet I enjoy,” said Debbie Craig, who lives near the development area.

Retired traffic engineer Vince Mattson questioned MRJ’s traffic studies, pointing out that they were conducted in the summer when the impact from nearby schools is lessened. MRJ’s engineers countered that the medical center’s peak hours won’t overlap the schools’ high traffic periods.

While the area is zoned for residential use, the development’s immediate neighbors include a church and fire station to the north, a rental storage facility to the west and 305 to the east. The Sakai Village condominiums to the south are buffered from the development by a protected wetland.

The character of the surrounding area was key in earning the city’s go-ahead.

“The health care facilities will not be detrimental to the uses or properties in the vicinity and though the use is not residential, the area is not predominantly residential,” wrote Hearing Examiner Margaret Klockars in her approval of the project’s permit.

While the buildings have a greenlight, some health care professionals are questioning the plans for what will go on inside the buildings.

Doctors at the three largest island clinics doubt that there are enough service needs on the island to support a new 27,700-square-foot facility.

The opposite is true for the assisted living building, which will likely fill with a backlog of would-be residents from the island’s existing facilities. And with over 30 percent of the island aged 45 to 65, assisted living facilities will have many new candidates in the coming years.

Liz Taylor, a Bainbridge aging issues consultant, doesn’t doubt the need for more assisted living units, but she does object to ALN’s involvement in meeting the need.

Calling the company’s service “mostly mediocre,” Taylor believes ALN has a near monopoly on the island, and is driven more by profit than quality care. She called ALN’s building plan a “rabbit warren in a very small property” that falls short of accommodating people with dementia, who have few choices for care and housing on the island.

Taylor would prefer collections of smaller buildings run by staff that give residents more personalized care.

ALN owner Don Roose has met with Taylor to discuss the development. She has “wonderful ideas,” he said, that work only when there’s enough acreage to make them happen. On Bainbridge, acreage comes at a high premium.

“We’d do (as Taylor suggests) if it were affordable,” he said. “We’re committed to a design and concept for the project that works financially for us (and is) affordable for residents.”

He said handling residents with dementia is “another world” of staffing and facility security that his company doesn’t want to enter.

One thought on “Island’s largest health care facility planned for Madison Ave.

  1. ‘…Calling the company’s service “mostly mediocre,” Taylor believes ALN has a near monopoly on the island, and is driven more by profit than quality care….”

    Lack of competition generally leads to high price and low quality, no choice. Why would Bainbridge Island, known for quality schools, quality supported active senior complex and outdoor recreation lifestyle – why would BI allow a monopoly and no quality senior complex for their citizens?

    Why not take advantage of Liz Taylor’s expertise and have a quality health care facility?

    Why doesn’t BI have their own non-profit health care facility for the Island residents?
    Sharon O’Hara

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