Neighbors not happy with Children's Hospital's revised plan

Community members living around Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Laurelhurst are not satisfied with new revisions presented last month at a press conference.

Children's Hospital, now 100 years old, presented a revised master plan that would reduce the height of a proposed tower from 240 to 160 feet and add two new entrances beyond the Sand Point Way Northeast entrance.

Community members fear major expansion would be detrimental to neighboring residential areas.


The revised plan, still in the conceptual stage, came out in response to requests by city officials and Laurelhurst community members who are concerned that the development is too immense for the Sand Point Way site.

While the revised plan offers to lower the height of the tallest tower, it still proposes to add four new towers, 350 more beds and 1.5 million square feet, which is roughly the size of a shopping mall. (Details of the plan can be found on-line at

"There is no conceivable way to mitigate the impacts of such a massive expansion," said Jeannie Hale, president of the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC), which serves 3,000 households and businesses.

"Even with the towers lower, 160 feet is much higher than any other major institution in a low-density, single-family neighborhood," Hale said.

In an Oct. 22 letter to Ruth Benfield, vice president of Facilities and Psycho-Social Services at Children's Hospital, Hale wrote on behalf of the LCC that Children's has not accepted any of the important design elements that they recommended for study in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), including significantly lower building heights, reduced square footage, elimination of new entrances to the hospital and the possible acquisition of Laurelon Terrace condominiums.

"Just looking at ways to lower building heights does not address these many key issues," Hale wrote.


The LCC and Children's Hospital were in agreement that the Sand Point Way entrance would remain the only one, yet the revised plan includes two more entrances and exits at Northeast 45th and Northeast 50th streets, said Liz Ogden, a member of the LCC Transportation and Land Use Committee. Ogden worries the additional entrances will increase traffic in an already-congested residential area.

Ogden, who has lived in the Laurelhurst neighborhood for most of her life, has seen Children's expand in a big way. In the past, the hospital has added growth plans without consulting the community, she said, causing a negative impact on the community's rapport with the medical center. LCC members have worked for 10 years to get a good relationship going again, Ogden said.

"The community wants them to grow and develop their business - this isn't about the hospital; it's a land-use issue. Expanding in that area could be fine, but they're asking for an enormous expansion when the property doesn't allow for that," Ogden said.


Another alternative is for Children's Hospital to purchase Laurelon Terrace condominiums. The complex is home to 136 families, Hale said: "This alternative demonstrates lack of respect for affordable housing in the neighborhood."

A number of individual owners started approaching Children's to see if the hospital was interested in buying their Laurelon Terrace homes, Benfield said.

"At the request of the Department of Planning and Development, we came up with one of four alternatives that might allow development on Laurelon Terrace property toward the end of the 20-year time frame, if we owned the property," Benfield said. "Laurelon Terrace residents have been wonderful neighbors over the years. We don't want residents to move if they wish to stay.

"Our need to grow is based on many factors.... We need to have single rooms for each admitted child and family" Benfield explained. "Families stay in the rooms; kids get better faster if parents are there.

"There's also a privacy component; it's hard to talk to a physician openly and honestly if another family is listening. Also, infection is harder to control if children share a room. It's a very big risk for 70 percent of kids that have complex chronic illnesses; they are very vulnerable to infection," she said.


On the night the revised plan was introduced to the public, 120 people were present at a community meeting.

"It was very well-attended because people are very concerned about the level of expansion," Hale said. "This is very important because if the rezone is approved, it will set a precedent."

To begin construction, the City Council must approve the hospital's master plan.

Children's Hospital hopes to begin design in about two years, initiate construction in three years and occupy in five years, according to Benfield.

"We cannot look at the LCC's proposal for much less development and much less height because that won't meet our projected need for growth," Benfield said. "We're very open to looking at anything that might mitigate the community's concerns as long as it's meeting our needs."[[In-content Ad]]