This year Highland marked the 125th anniversary of its founding on South Avenue; during its history, it has grown from a tiny community hospital to a regional destination for specialty surgical services. The numbers help tell the story: each year Highland provides some 40,000 ED visits, 16,000 surgeries and 3000 births to the community and region it serves.
Close to home, in the South Wedge neighborhood, some of our neighbors have shared concerns about the hospital’s impact on the neighborhood. For the past two years, Highland has met regularly with a group of neighbors living in Rockingham, Mount Vernon and Bellevue residences to address quality-of-life issues – the hospital’s appearance, noise, traffic flow and litter. Much progress has been made, with more work to do; but Highland’s purchase of 27 Bellevue in late 2013 and its interest in using the property for office space raised neighbor interest and concern. In late spring, the group Defend Urban Neighborhoods formed and organized a petition urging that Highland “not expand beyond the hospital's current footprint into the residential neighborhood.”
Highland and representatives from South Wedge community organizations and businesses began regular meetings in April and met again in late May to discuss the hospital’s facility plans and potential effect on the neighborhood. The goal of these meetings is proactive information-sharing, open dialogue and finding ways to ensure South Wedge continues to be a vibrant city neighborhood. At the May meeting, hospital officials updated neighbor representatives that Highland is not interested in purchasing additional neighborhood properties. In June, the hospital’s Board of Directors approved putting 27 Bellevue up for sale since its facility construction plans had changed and the hospital would no longer need supplemental office space during construction.
The reasons behind the latest developments have to do with two construction options Highland had been weighing over the past year, and the hospital’s decision in April to take the more conservative approach.
To maintain a facility that meets current health care building standards, Highland needs to increase the number of private patient rooms and build some new, larger-scale operating rooms. A facility master plan recommended two construction options. For Option 1, Highland would build a 2-level addition on the south side of the hospital that would house six new operating rooms plus a 25-bed observation unit. Creating a new observation unit would free up space on Highland’s inpatient floors, enabling it to convert semi-private inpatient rooms to private rooms. For Option 2, Highland would build this 2-story Observation Unit/OR addition, plus demolish the 5-story South Wing of the hospital to construct an all-new patient care wing.
At the May neighborhood steering group meeting, Highland shared with neighbors that after careful consideration, the hospital had selected Option 1. Highland’s leadership and Board of Directors had been evaluating both options over the course of the past year; knowing that the larger construction project would displace many people in its South Wing, the hospital was evaluating whether nearby properties could be used as office “swing space” to temporarily place staff during construction. Now, because the 5-story South Wing will remain intact, far fewer staff members will need to be relocated during Highland’s planned construction. That April decision eliminated the need to seek available residential property in the South Wedge.
The proposed addition will meet Highland’s facility needs for the foreseeable future.
- The hospital is working with the City of Rochester to update its zoning status and will include specifications on the proposed 2-story hospital addition in its zoning application. A parking plan will also be included in the application.
- The next meeting with representatives from neighborhood groups, business leaders, city of Rochester and Highland Hospital will take place in August, with monthly meetings planned.
- Highland presented information on its facility plans at a meeting of the Sector 6 on July 14. Highland attends monthly Sector 6 meetings and we’ll provide updates on the project as things progress. For information or to share concerns with Highland Hospital, contact Public Relations Director Barbara Ficarra at 585.341.6210 (office) or 585.424.0315 (mobile) or email her at Barbara_Ficarra@urmc.rochester.edu.
Barbara Ficarra has been Public Relations Director at Highland Hospital since 2008.