Best site for regional hospital in Prince George’s far from simple, officials said

Easy access to the Capital Beltway. Unrestricted airspace for emergency helicopters. Enough acreage for expansion. Proximity to public transit. Far enough from FedEx Field to avoid ambulances trapped in game-day traffic.

Officials told the audience of more than 350 at a public meeting Thursday night that they need 40 well-situated acres to build the long-awaited, publicly funded acute-care hospital in the middle of Prince George’s County.

Although they have four sites in mind — in Landover, which has two, in Glenarden and in Largo — none is perfect, they said. They decided to publicly air the options, although they were not required to, as they seek a replacement site for Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.

They heard an earful, but whether it will matter is uncertain. Price, location and the speed with which a deal could be made will be major factors, officials said. They need to file applications with state health officials by fall so the hospital can open on schedule in 2017.

The community meeting, held at an athletic complex in the shadow of the Redskins’ stadium, was the first, and likely the only, public discussion on the hospital’s location. Officials said coming negotiations with landowners would be held in private.

Land-acquisition costs, although not disclosed Thursday night, are expected to be substantial. The new hospital’s total price tag recently rose to $645 million.

The new 259-bed facility is expected to become part of the University of Maryland Medical System network, and officials there say it would become financially self-sustaining soon after it opens. It is supposed to serve Prince George’s and Southern Maryland and offer high-end specialities.

Together, the state and county pay at least $30 million annually to maintain the financially ailing, county-owned Prince George’s Hospital Center, which is operated by Dimensions Healthcare System. The state and county would fund the start-up and construction costs of the new hospital with grants and publicly financed bonds.

“The final [site] decision will be collaborative,” said Brad Seamon, top aide to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who played a key role in making the deal to bring a new hospital to the county after years of political stalemate.

Some residents suggested at the meeting that the county consider using more than one site and split services.

“The areas that need most public access, the people who don’t have cars, put those services near the Metro. Have more long-term care at a second center at Landover Mall,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, who lives in Kentland near the former mall.

The new hospital, and an affiliated primary-care network of physicians, would be part of a full-service medical campus, with medical offices, a parking garage and possible classrooms for medical professionals who might also train at nearby Prince George’s Community College in Largo.

A major goal of the new hospital and medical system is to help reduce what recent studies have found are substantial disparities in the health of the nearly 1 million residents in majority-minority Prince George’s, where many residents suffer disproportionately from diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The new hospital, like the facility in Cheverly, would be a designated trauma center for the state, and the complex is likely to be 720,000 square feet. It also is expected to offer high-level medical specialists who officials said they think will attract many residents of the county and of Southern Maryland.

The site-selection panel will include representatives from the university medical system; from Dimensions, which is expected to become a subsidiary of the university medical system; and from Baker’s administration.

“Visibility by the Beltway is a very important attribute,” said David Iannucci, a top economic development official in Baker’s administration. “But Metro access and bus access are also very important.”

The four sites are:

●At the former Landover Mall site, about 88 acres are under consideration. The site, just off the Beltway on Route 202, has been in decline and is owned by the Lerner family, also owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team. It is about 1.3 miles to the Largo Town Center Metro station.

●Largo Town Center, just next to the Metro station and close to the Beltway, includes the former Capital Centre site, now occupied by the Boulevard, a shopping center that has several vacant storefronts but also many businesses with long-term leases. Prince George’s owns the 123 acres under the Boulevard; and private developer Peter Schwartz owns 19 adjacent acres.

●Several properties with multiple owners around the Morgan Boulevard Metro station next to Central Avenue in Landover total 230 acres and have easy Metro access. But the site is about a mile from the Beltway in a traffic-clogged area where the Beltway ramps feed into Central Avenue traffic in a maze.

●Woodmore Towne Centre, a developing shopping area where most of the 251 buildable acres are owned by developer D.R. Horton, officials said. The site is about 1.5 miles from the Largo Town Center Metro station and the Morgan Boulevard Metro station but close to the Beltway.

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