Two top Alexandria Hospital officials recommended yesterday that the hospital withdraw plans for an addition for doctors offices, effectively ending a longtime hospital lobbying effort and triggering a neighborhood block party.
"It's been a 30-year fight," said Mary Lee Berger, an elated Seminary Hill resident. "Wars don't even last that long."
To spread news of the truce, Berger telephoned many of the 200 residents who had planned to attend a City Council meeting tonight to oppose the four-story office addition.
That meeting was canceled after George Cook, Alexandria Health Services Corp. board chairman, and Frank P. McCabe, Alexandria Hospital board chairman, told city officials that they had asked their boards to withdraw the office plans.
Most board members have already agreed to the withdrawal, hospital officials said, and their approval is considered a formality.
Instead of the originally proposed 108,000-square-foot addition, Cook said, the hospital will file revised plans for a 40,000-square-foot building that will include the original plans' cancer treatment center, radiology services and outpatient surgery center, none of which is opposed by residents.
"I think it's a reasonable compromise," said Mayor James P. Moran Jr. "Given the hospital's location in a residential neighborhood," the 60 offices were not a favored option, Moran said.
The 414-bed nonprofit hospital is at Howard Street and Seminary Road in the western part of Alexandria. Homes, many of which cost $200,000 to $300,000, surround it.
Saying they abhorred for-profit offices in residential neighborhoods, neighbors and civic leaders from around the city have been pressuring city officials to reject the offices.
The city Planning Commission turned down the site plan for the $12 million 108,000-square-foot addition on June 5. The council, the final authority, was expected to reject the plan tonight.
City officials said they would probably approve the revised plans in September.
Hospital officials had argued that without doctors offices the 115-year-old hospital would suffer financial woes like those experienced at numerous other health facilities.
A recent city-commissioned report warned that the hospital could lose as much as $13.8 million over five years because of an increasingly competitive health market, the expansion of health maintenance organizations and changes in insurance laws that favor outpatient over inpatient care.
This report, done by Lewin and Associates, also said that physicians offices could bring $8 million a year to the hospital.
"We are disappointed," said Cook. "We think in the long run it would have been better" to build the offices. He said the hospital would examine other ways to ensure its financial health.
Jack Sullivan, the resident leading the citizen opposition, said he was so happy yesterday that he was going to take his family out to dinner. As for the hundreds of residents also pleased at yesterday's decision, they are going to celebrate at a block party this summer, he said.
Sullivan added, "I'm hoping that the divisiveness and the rancor that a battle like this digs up is over."