St. Patrick Hospital announced Wednesday it will break ground this fall on a new medical office building at the former Safeway site at 600 W. Broadway near downtown Missoula.
The hospital is operated by Providence Health and Services Montana, and the site has been a vacant gravel lot across from the main hospital campus for many years.
Providence Montana chief executive Joyce Dombrouski said in an emailed statement that the new building will add to "Missoula's booming commercial construction activity."
“With patient demand outpacing our capacity, expanding our footprint at Providence St. Pat’s downtown Missoula campus will enable us to continue to provide quality care to enhance access and meet the needs of Western Montana residents,” she wrote. “The medical office building is the most recent and largest in a long list of ongoing infrastructure improvements to the services and facilities at our Polson and Missoula hospitals and clinics.”
The building will house an outpatient surgery center and several other service lines and clinics. Dombrouski said relocating some of the hospital's larger services will allow for repurposing space inside the main hospital's footprint to accommodate "growing in-patient needs and procedures."
Speculation has been rampant in the community for the past few years as the lot sat idle, but hospital officials kept plans close to the vest until this week. Dombrouski said other plans for building on the site were "discussed, developed and reevaluated over the last several years with much input from various stakeholders."
“The multi-million dollar project will be funded through a combination of sources, including philanthropy and a low interest loan accessible due to our high bond rating,” Dombrouski said. “This is part of a comprehensive, 10-year master campus plan that will position our ministries to be competitive in a changing health care landscape. This investment will allow us to continue to be the regional inpatient referral center well into the future.”
No architectural renderings or details on the size of the new building are available, according to a hospital spokesperson. Final plans, contractors, timelines and other information will be identified this July. Site preparation is scheduled for fall with the official groundbreaking scheduled for Oct. 23, 2019.
The site includes an asphalt parking lot right now and sits on an entire city block. For a rough comparison of the cost of perhaps a similar-sized project, the new Missoula Public Library being built on the other end of downtown sits on an entire city block, will be four stories high and will cost about $35 million. St. Pat’s completed a 2,800-square-foot, $2.7 million expansion of its International Heart Institute in the main building in 2017.
In an interview with the Missoulian, Dombrouski said the hospital is planning three levels of new parking at the site, which would translate to roughly 500 spaces. She said "there's talk" of building a sky bridge to connect the main hospital with the new building, and the hospital has been in discussions with the city about traffic concerns.
“As downtown’s west corridor anchor and the largest private employer in Missoula County, Providence will incorporate thoughtful architectural design and transportation options that align with the concepts of Missoula’s Downtown master planning," Dombrouski said.
Dombrouski also sits on the board of the Missoula Economic Partnership and said the new building might spur more investment in the area. She said the new building sends a signal to potential employers in Missoula that the health care industry is strong here, which helps attract talented employees.
While she doesn't expect Providence to add any full-time employees as a result of the new building, she said it will provide temporary construction jobs and increase the hospital's capacity for seeing patients.
As part of what the hospital calls a "comprehensive plan," Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, a critical access hospital, will focus on the necessary modernization to update facilities and expand clinic space to continue to serve the community.