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Plan to replace West County hospital gets initial backing in Creve Coeur

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Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur

CREVE COEUR • A proposal from BJC HealthCare to significantly transform its campus in west St. Louis County, including plans to build a new hospital to replace the current one, passed its first hurdle Monday night.

Creve Coeur planning and zoning officials gave the project unanimous initial support.

In addition to the new hospital, the project calls for a new parking structure and at least four new medical office buildings and an expansion to the existing Siteman Cancer Center building on campus.

George Stock, a BJC representative at the meeting, said that while the initial plan includes a large amount of surface parking, that space is expected to eventually be replaced by medical offices.

In addition, Jason Jaggi, director of community development for Creve Coeur, said that nearby residents’ fears of a view obstructed by the medical complex would be offset by the complex being in the center of the site, rather than on the perimeter.

Among those who expressed such concerns was Jeannine Aldridge, who with her husband has lived in a house south of the project for more than 18 years. She said the house is on a higher elevation than the hospital and looks right into the campus.

She said she fears the “massive development” that BJC has planned will change their view from mostly green space to that of lighted parking lots.

“A little community hospital is what we have now,” said Aldridge.

Don Magruder, a member of the planning and zoning commission, raised concern about traffic. “It looks like there will be two or three times the number of people,” he said.

Stock did not deny that the complex would bring added traffic.

As part of the approval, BJC agreed to two extra conditions on the proposal to address some of the concerns. One is that there could be a larger buffer than now planned between the campus and Olive Boulevard. The other is that open sections of the campus would be filled with trees and other plants.

This is just the first step of a larger approval process, Jaggi told the Post-Dispatch.

The replacement hospital is going to be larger than the current one, Jaggi said. The new hospital will be six stories and encompass 260,000 square feet. The current hospital is only two stories, Jaggi said.

The hospital is to have 100 beds; the current one is a 77-bed facility.

The Post-Dispatch initially reported on possible expansion plans at the West County site in 2014.

The West County campus sits on more than 54 acres near the intersection of Interstate 270 and Olive Boulevard. Other major changes would include removing the two existing lakes and surrounding paths.

BJC HealthCare is the area’s largest employer and hospital operator, with 14 hospitals including a rehabilitation facility.

In the last two years, BJC has expanded its reach and footprint in Missouri and Illinois.

In February 2015, BJC inked a deal to purchase Mineral Area Regional Medical Center, a 135-bed hospital in Farmington, Mo., about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The purchase effectively ended the competition between the two. Mineral Area and BJC operated the only two hospitals in Farmington.

Then in April 2015, BJC announced it was forming a strategic alliance with Memorial Hospital in Belleville. The two finalized the deal later in 2015, and together the two jointly run Memorial Hospital in Belleville and its sister campus Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh under the umbrella of a new parent organization, Memorial Regional Health Services Inc.

Meanwhile, BJC has been working on a major renovation and expansion of its flagship campus in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. Early estimates of the long-term project said the cost could top $1 billion.

Samantha Liss • 314-340-8017

@samanthann on Twitter

sliss@post-dispatch.com

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