It's been years since I subjected myself to a colonoscopy.
I don't remember exactly what I was thinking as I drove to SSM St. Joseph Health Center that day. But whatever it was, I'm confident it wasn't:
"Boy, so much could be done to make South Fifth Street a more attractive destination-site corridor. It would be so awesome if I could find an architecturally pleasing place to go for a post-colonoscopy veggie burger on artisan bread with aioli. With an iced green tea."
Is there really such a thing as a "health care destination site"? SSM St. Joseph and the city of St. Charles seem to think so.
Last week Journal reporter Russell Korando reported on a long-range plan under consideration by the city and SSM to create a hospital district along South Fifth Street between Boone's Lick Road and First Capitol Drive.
Along this six-tenth's of a mile stretch are assorted businesses, including a bank, pawn shop, fast-food joints and a liquor store.
SSM St. Joseph, a major St. Charles employer, would like the approach from Interstate 70 improved. A spokesman for an architectural firm involved in the project calls the Fifth Street corridor a "concern" for the hospital.
After all, he says, SSM has spent $40 million to improve its facility over the past four years.
The hospital's president, Gaspare Calvaruso, says the hospital has become a destination site for health care in the region.
I had to think about that. I'm sure Calvaruso is right in that the hospital draws patients from both sides of the Missouri River. But doesn't "destination site" imply a place where you actually want to go?
Would you call Baue Memorial Gardens a "destination site" for death?
Does anyone really enjoy their hospital stay? Do people look for boutiques to explore after their knee replacement?
The city and SSM conducted what they called "charettes," which is a destination word for "meetings." It's a word choice that makes me suspect the plan eventually will include roundabouts. Possibly shaped like healthy hearts.
A preliminary design shows a gateway arch over South Fifth at Boone's Lick Road that would inform drivers they were entering the hospital district.
For those of you who have exited westbound 70 onto South Fifth, northbound, you know of the recent interchange modifications that prompt you to quickly decide the essential question: Ameristar or Bass Pro? What's it going to be?
Now, at least, there will be a third option: Hospital.
The late Joseph Campbell, who studied comparative religions and mythology, wrote that there was a time when the most significant structure in a community was the church. Now, our major architectural shrines honor commerce. In St. Charles it's a casino and an adjoining hotel.
I'm not sure a gateway arch for the hospital district is needed. How about a simple directional sign that says something along the lines of ... "Hospital, this way"?
As you proceed will there be detailed signage with a finger pointing the way? "Blood Work," "Imaging," "Prostate Exams."
Sure, city officials have an obligation to try to make the Big Dawgs happy — Lindenwood, Ameristar, Bass Pro.
And they certainly have done that over the years.
For example, the city renamed Riverbluff Drive as Ameristar Boulevard and bars and restaurants can serve alcohol later at casino properties. There were tax incentives for Bass Pro.
And the city re-routed First Capitol Drive for Lindenwood. Now, the university has plans for the Lindenwood Town Center, with a pedestrian bridge over First Capitol Drive.
Is SSM suffering from pedestrian-bridge envy?
City officials say owners along South Fifth will not be forced to have their properties meet new design and architectural standards. Those standards would loom in the future, when property changes hands.
Design and architectural standards make sense to me when applied, for example, to historic Main Street in St. Charles, where so many buildings date to the early 1800s.
If I'm driving to a hospital with appendicitis, I can't say it matters that much if I pass through a commercial street flanked by relatively new, nondescript structures that include businesses such as Eddie's Pub, KFC, Cottman Transmission, Dollar General, Wonder Bakery Thriftshop, St. Charles Pawnshop and Barrel & Bottle Liquors.
What do we hope to accomplish? Replace Eddie's Pub with a free-standing sushi bar?
To me, SSM St. Joseph Health Center competes successfully and will continue to compete successfully by hiring quality employees and offering quality care. In fact, the way health care is headed in this country, I think a pawn shop and a liquor store are exactly what we need in a health care destination site.