More emergency medical care and more rental housing –- both community needs -- will begin to be developed soon in Lancaster city, after the city Planning Commission on Wednesday gave its unanimous final approval to the plans of their providers.
Demolition for a $182.5 million expansion of Lancaster General Hospital’s emergency department in the 500 block of North Duke Street will start Dec. 15, while the creation of the 63 rental housing units in the 200 block of North Prince Street, costing over $10 million, is set to begin as early as January.
The emergency department expansion is intended to eliminate long waits for care there triggered by the arrival of patients who in the past would have gone to the other city hospital, UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster, which closed in February 2019. The College Avenue facility had a 16-bed emergency department.
LGH’s emergency department, which has 54 beds in its main area plus nine more in an annex, was designed to handle 85,000 to 90,000 patients per year, said Benjamin Morton, a project designer from RGS Associates who represented LGH at the meeting.
But at its current volume, the department is on pace to see 126,000 patients a year, he added.
LGH’s plan calls for raising that total to 96 beds, Morton said, which LGH estimates should suffice for at least 20 years. LGH had said previously that the expanded emergency department will be able to handle 140,000 patients a year.
Of course, having more beds requires more floor space. So the plan calls for the 39,000-square-foot emergency department to grow by 40,000 square feet.
Accomplishing this project on a landlocked city block, all the while continuing to provide medical care, will be a complicated dance with numerous steps. They include:
Demolishing 11,500 square feet of existing space; creating a temporary emergency-department entrance; creating a temporary cafeteria (because the expanded emergency department will include the existing cafeteria space); and relocating the admissions office, nursing departments and the gift shop, which stand on the cafeteria’s future footprint.
The expansion also will cover most of the current arrival/drop-off court that includes a circular driveway. That will be replaced by a drop-off lane running parallel to North Duke Street.
The rental housing project is being developed by Eberly Myers LLC in 221 N. Prince St., formerly home to Anytime Fitness, and the building next door at 227 N. Prince St., anchored by Roburrito’s.
It’s one of a half-dozen sizable, proposed housing projects in or near downtown to surface over the past 18 months, coming after community leaders and public officials county-wide have lamented a shortage of rental housing for years.
As LNP | LancasterOnline reported previously, the plan calls for 29 shared-living units (the first such units in the county for the general public), 34 apartments and two commercial tenants – Roburrito’s and possibly a small grocery in the Anytime Fitness space.
Co-owner Benjamin Myers said he hopes that construction will start in January with completion by year-end 2021. Including the expense of acquiring the properties, the total project cost will exceed $10 million, Myers said.
The shared-living units will consist of a bedroom/living room plus a bathroom. Tenants will share a kitchen, laundry and TV room/lounge. Myers told the commission he decided to offer them based on their popularity around the world and based on conversations he had with current downtown residents.
Potential tenants for shared living will include people looking to live in community and people who are in transition, such as professionals who are new to the area and looking for a house, recent college graduates and people who want to downsize.
Shared-living rents are projected to be about $850 a month, though rents for several units will be “self-subsidized” by Eberly Myers down to about $650 a month, to help meet a community need for affordable housing, Myers told the commission.
The apartments will be studio and one-bedroom units. Rents will be about $900 to $1,500 a month, Myers said. For the self-subsidized units, the rents will be about $750 to $900.