Room for growth

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Print this page by Carlos Santos

Martha Jefferson Hospital, one of the most famous landmarks in Charlottesville, needs room to grow.

Now situated near the city’s downtown, Martha Jefferson will move in 2012 to a $250 million hospital east of Charlottesville in Albemarle County.  Founded in 1903 by seven local physicians, the hospital was named for Thomas Jefferson’s daughter. The original 25-bed hospital cost $8,637 to build.

It’s come a long way since then.

The current hospital, though aging and hemmed in by neighborhoods, has 176 beds and is projected to treat some 11,000 in-patients this year.  The new hospital, whose construction is under way, will open with the same number of all-private-room beds in 2012.  An outpatient facility was opened at the site in 2002.

Ron Cottrell, vice president of planning for the nonprofit hospital, said the move into Albemarle County is necessary because “we knew that an expansion of services couldn’t happen on our existing site”’ because of zoning laws and the lack of room to expand.

The new hospital will be situated on 84 acres at the Peter Jefferson Place on Pantops Mountain just outside the city limits. Cottrell said growth will be incremental at first with perhaps a 3 to 5 percent increase in patients a year.  “We think we’ll get what’s called the halo effect. People will go to a new hospital to give you a try. We expect a bump when we first open,’’ said Cottrell.

The money to build the hospital complex is being raised through the hospital’s own money, bonds and local philanthropy. The hospital already has raised more than $40 million of its $50 million private-money goal.

Meanwhile, the site of the old hospital complex — a key site for a city with little land on which to build — will be turned into a mixed-use development offering residential, retail and professional offices.  There will be open spaces, a much-needed downtown grocery store and possibly even single-family homes.

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