In July, a proposed hospital in Gig Harbor cleared some major hurdles that have caused major delays to the construction schedule.

Budd Wagner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Franciscan Health System that is building the facility, says, “We’re very excited to at last get the Gig Harbor City Council’s approval of our Comprehensive Plan Amendment. This is their first official action on St. Anthony Hospital since it was approved by the State of Washington Department of Health in May of 2004.”

The amendment to the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan allows about 15 acres of the site, located in Gig Harbor North, to be rezoned as “business park,” the only zone within city limits that allows, as “conditional use,” for a hospital to be built.

“Although the need for the hospital was confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health more than two years ago, the Gig Harbor City Council made its first official decision regarding the hospital (July 10),” says hospital spokesman Gale Robinette. “This approval puts the hospital through its first major gate on the pathway toward getting a building permit. We are thrilled!”

The procedure for gaining approval for a new hospital has been an obstacle course, until recently stalled like traffic on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The city will hire a staff person, to be paid by FHS, to help guide the application through review. This is a common practice in small municipalities when dealing with large construction developments.

In August 2003, the cost of the project was estimated at $94 million. Robinette says, “Given that the cost of construction materials and medical technology has increased the overall cost of the hospital by $15 million as a result of delays, we are working hard to ensure that the rest of the approval phases go as smoothly as possible.”

For more than a year, a community committee has been meeting regularly to address and resolve traffic concerns.

“Franciscan and the city have reached contractual agreements which pertain to traffic improvements that will need to be built to open the hospital,” says Gig Harbor City Administrator Mark Hoppen. “The St. Anthony Hospital project is ready to apply for a rezone and conditional use permit, and then to receive a building permit. Franciscan hopes to receive its building permit by the end of the year and the city hopes to provide it earlier than that. If we meet this objective, then St. Anthony should be serving Peninsula residents by early 2009.”

St. Anthony Hospital will be an 80-bed state-of-the-art community hospital, located in the north area of Gig Harbor, just off Canterwood Boulevard near Burnham Drive at State Route 16.

Plans include 24-hour emergency services; medical, surgical and critical care units; inpatient and outpatient surgery; a heart catheterization laboratory; diagnostic services, including MRI, CT scans, ultrasound and mammography; and physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (www.zgf.com) was named architect for St. Anthony Hospital in June 2004. Sellen Construction (www.sellen.com) has been selected as general contractor. Named after St. Anthony of Padua, a patron saint of sailors and fishermen, honoring the maritime tradition of the Peninsula communities, the new hospital will create about 450 family-wage jobs.

“I think the entire Peninsula community can celebrate the fact that the hospital project is at long-last moving forward,” Wagner says.

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