Following a unanimous vote from the Board of Alders last week, the Yale New Haven Hospital will embark on a $838 million project on its Saint Raphael Campus to build a new neuroscience center, an expanded emergency department and three new parking garages.
The approval from the alders was the last legislative hurdle for project planners, who have endured a year-long municipal process that started under the Harp administration. Hospital officials have previously advocated for the city’s authorization in meetings with former Mayor Toni Harp, Board President Tyisha Walker-Myers and the City Plan Commission.
The new additions to the St. Raphael campus, which is located in the Dwight neighborhood, will increase the number of available inpatient beds and emergency rooms for the often crowded hospital. According to Senior Vice President of Operations for YNHH Michael Holmes, the University will also create a new center specifically for treating and learning about neurological disorders. Despite the unanimous alder vote, however, Dwight residents and community activists have expressed concerns about increases in traffic, pollution and development-induced displacement in their neighborhood.
“I am very excited that we got through this process with so much support from the city of New Haven as well as the Board of Alders,” Holmes told the News in an interview. “[We are] extremely excited about the opportunity to break ground and continue to move forward, and we were glad to be a very collaborative neighbor.”
YNHH already boasts a regular occupancy of around 1,500 patients, making it the fourth-largest hospital in the country. The hospital, however, struggles with limited capacity, with all of its adult services at 95 to 100 percent occupancy rates. According to Holmes, many of the hospital’s rooms are doubles or triples, with even a few quads in the psychiatry hospital. YNHH also noted that it needed a larger emergency department on the St. Raphael campus.
To address overcrowding concerns, YNHH is looking to add 202 new single occupancy beds at St. Raphael and almost double the number of existing emergency rooms. Those beds will constitute the hospital’s new neuroscience research and treatment center. Neuroscience has been identified as one of the hospital’s fastest-growing service lines, Holmes noted.
The expansion also comes with the addition of 1,730 employees and 1,051 parking spaces, according to hospital officials. Those new parking spaces will come via two garages on Orchard Street: one to replace the existing Orchard Street Garage and another underground garage on Sherman Avenue for ancillary services. The new spaces will result in a 22 percent surplus above the minimum standards outlined by the amended Planned Development District 45, or PDD.
At a December committee hearing on the expansion, all of the alders present voted to move the proposal to the Board of Alders for a full vote. But Majority Leader and Ward 27 Alder Richard Furlow, Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand and Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. noted that they could still vote down the project at the upcoming meeting if the hospital does not address their concerns on traffic, housing and pollution.
Ultimately, all three, along with all 25 of their present colleagues, voted in favor of the project last Tuesday via four separate votes. Among other approvals, the alders ordered the city to give the necessary easements and licenses to YNHH to build a new pedestrian bridge over Orchard Street to connect one of the new garages with the hospital itself.
“The neuroscience center represents a huge investment in the New Haven community that’s going to create hundreds of jobs for local residents and spur economic development in biosciences and other high-paying sectors in New Haven,” newly-inaugurated Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22 told the News. “This is an example of how Yale is both promoting development and economic growth in the city, which is great and providing jobs, but also is relying on city services and needs to make sure that the city is able to pay for services that residents rely on.”
City and hospital officials have praised the project’s focus on neuroscience and noted that it will positively contribute to the Elm City economy. For example, at the Dec. 10 meeting, City Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli pointed out that New Haven has the second-highest concentration of bioscience firms in the nation and that this project will add to the city’s offerings in that sector. Others, like Walker-Myers, whose ward is where the center will be built, said the center would attract medical talent to the city and create more jobs.
However, some worry that the new center will come at a cost to Dwight residents. Throughout the public approval process, local residents relayed their concerns about increased traffic and pollution from the cars of visitors and commuting employees. Following a traffic study commissioned by YNHH, the hospital moved the entrances of the two parking garages off of Orchard to other streets. When asked about neighbors’ concerns about pollution, Holmes said that the buildings would be LEED-certified and that the hospital has followed “best practices.”
Other residents, like Kate Walton, criticized the size and harshness of the new parking garages, lamenting the birth of an unfriendly streetscape along Orchard Street.
“My biggest concern is [whether the new center will] cause development-induced displacement. Basically, will land values go up? Will housing prices go up, as we’ve already seen happen in Dwight?” said Rasmus Schlutter ’21, who has lived in Dwight for the past six months and canvassed his fellow neighbors at the start of the approval process for the center. Schuttler emphasized prioritizing the needs of neighborhood residents, and noted that he does not speak for the entirety of Dwight.
Looking forward, Holmes said that the hospital needs to clear about 60,000 square feet of currently utilized space before it can break ground for the upcoming construction. YNHH is currently finding and renovating other spaces for employees who are slated to move.
The hospital will begin demolishing five structures on-site in July or August of this year. The target date for the completion of construction is late 2023, according to Holmes and other hospital officials.
Yale New Haven Hospital merged with the then-independent Hospital of St. Raphael in 2012, renaming it the YNHH St. Raphael Campus.
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