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Dartmouth-Hitchcock gets approval to build tower expansion

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock received approval from the City of Lebanon to build a $130 million patient tower. The five-story, nearly 200,000-square-foot building is to be at the existing northern entrance to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, within the existing Loop Road. (Courtesy HDR/DHMC)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2020 9:47:52 PM
Modified: 1/14/2020 9:47:03 PM

LEBANON — Dartmouth-Hitchcock received the go-ahead this week to build a $130 million expansion at its Lebanon campus but faced questions about how to handle traffic from its proposed patient tower and other developments planned nearby.

The new tower, which could have as many as 112 new beds, is expected to draw an additional 270 vehicles an hour to the state’s only academic medical center during peak morning and evening commutes, according to a traffic study commissioned by Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

The Planning Board voted unanimously Monday to approve construction of the about 200,000-square-foot, five-story tower, which will sit at the existing northern entrance to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

The building would include 64 new patient beds as well as “future ‘shell’ space” that could be used for 48 additional beds should the need arise, according to plans. DHMC, which currently has 396 licensed beds, has said it needs the patient tower to meet a growing demand for services.

But most questions Monday focused on traffic, particularly how the vehicles and pedestrians will access the hospital as development continues on Mount Support Road.

“There’s a lot of apartment buildings that will be going on Mount Support (Road),” Planning Board Chairman Bruce Garland said in an interview Tuesday. “It raises all sorts of questions about traffic and bicycles and pedestrians.”

While traffic engineers for Dartmouth-Hitchcock say the effect on surrounding roads will be “insignificant,” planners worry the hospital expansion and other developments could together pose problems for the fast-growing Route 120 corridor.

Dartmouth College recently floated plans to build a 300-unit apartment complex for graduate students on nearby Mount Support Road, about a mile south of DHMC.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts-based developer Saxon Partners hopes to build 250 apartments on an abutting 75-acre lot. Those units would be marketed to hospital employees.

“These multifamily housing developments, together with the proposed hospital expansion, present an opportunity to coordinate mitigation efforts at a larger scale than would be expected,” Lebanon’s planning staff wrote in a memo ahead of Monday’s meeting.

All parties should work together to identify improvements “so that residents of the new developments can safely and conveniently walk or bike all the way to the DHMC facility,” they said.

Officials in Hanover presented similar concerns.

Bill Young, chairman of the town’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Committee, asked that bike lanes, sidewalks and other infrastructure improvements be completed alongside the tower project.

“The two towns, DHMC and the state of New Hampshire all need to work together to plan and fund these improvements,” Young, a retired DHMC physician, wrote in a recent letter to Lebanon’s Planning Board.

For its part, D-H has said it is willing to enter into talks and, in filings with the city, said it wants to see a sidewalk built on Mount Support Road between Lahaye Drive and the hospital.

D-H also has pursued and received approval from Hanover officials to expand parking at its “Lot 9” facility, near the Jesse’s steakhouse restaurant, by adding 274 spots there. From Lot 9, DHMC employees can hop on a shuttle to get to work.

The hospital is working with Vital Communities and other organizations to establish van pools as well. The pools would operate in both Vermont and New Hampshire, D-H told city planners.

Garland, the Planning Board chairman, said those promises placated the board, which intends to continue monitoring plans for the area.

“I think there was a sense that we want to get on with this, but there are clearly concerns about what this is going to do longer-term,” he said.

The hospital expects the construction of the new patient tower to take 26 months. Officials say work will begin this spring and be ready for patients and staff in the summer of 2022.

D-H said the project will be financed through a combination of equity, fundraising and bonds

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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