The Richland City Council on Tuesday approved a development agreement with Kadlec Regional Medical Center that will help guide future expansion of the hospital's campus.
The pact opens the door to the possible closure of a portion of Goethals Drive -- a key piece of that vision for future growth. But it doesn't guarantee the closure ultimately will happen as it depends on the outcome of a public process.
The council approved the development agreement in a unanimous vote.
"Ever since I've lived here, and especially since I've been on this council, the conversation has been about the emphasis that Richland has put on developing suburban areas and not the core areas," said Councilman Phillip Lemley. "And here we have a private partner coming in -- a willing private partner, willing to come in here and continue to develop the core area of Richland."
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Councilwoman Sandra Kent said she has mixed feelings about closing part of Goethals.
"However, I've had time to examine (Kadlec's) plan, and it is a good plan. It's extremely consistent with our vision for that portion of downtown. It definitely facilitates some of the goals of Kadlec to create more of a campus atmosphere," she said during the meeting.
The development agreement requires the city to initiate the right of way vacation process for an about 475-foot stretch of Goethals from the emergency room driveway north to the intersection of Carondelet Drive. The process will involve multiple opportunities for public input.
A public hearing is planned May 7.
If the city council ultimately signs off on the vacation, Kadlec will buy the right of way at the market rate. If the council decides against it, the development pact is nullified.
Kadlec's campus today covers about 11 acres, but hospital officials envision a larger campus, including multiple medical office buildings -- one already is under construction -- stretching onto about 14 acres immediately to the east.
Goethals Drive splits the two areas.
If the vacation wins approval, Kadlec will build a new connector street between Jadwin and Gilmore avenues on the east side of the 14-acre area, and it also will install a vehicle route through its campus from Goethals to that new entrance.
The hospital, which is the largest employer in Richland's Central Business District, has seen significant growth over the past 11 years -- growth that's made it "a major driver of the economic health and vitality of the Central Business District and the entire region," a city staff memo said.
The hospital's workforce has tripled from 740 employees to more than 2,200; its payroll swelled from $30 million to more than $140 million; and the number of in-patients and out-patients has grown from 110,000 to 400,000-plus, the memo said.
The development pact -- which also mentions build-out of the four upper floors of the hospital's existing River Pavilion tower, among other future projects -- allows Kadlec to "construct proposed campus expansions under the city's existing development regulations and would provide for the extension of a pedestrian trail through Sutch Park," a city staff report says.
After Tuesday's meeting, Rand Wortman, president and chief executive officer of Kadlec Health System, said he was pleased with the council's action. "This is good for the city, it's good for Kadlec and it's good for patients," he said.