By Kevin Unger, president and CEO, Poudre Valley Hospital
The original Poudre Valley Hospital opened in 1925 with majestic white pillars standing along the building’s front. The pillars were removed years later during an expansion of the structure.
During the next three years, community members in Fort Collins will see a lot of construction activity at Poudre Valley Hospital.
We’re in the initial stages of developing a plan to remove the oldest section of the building. The section is near the corner of Lemay Avenue and Doctors Lane.
The section will be replaced with a two-story, 113,000-square-foot building that will allow us to maintain our high level of services for the community and expand the capabilities of our:
This project—the new building—will greatly benefit patients as well as Fort Collins primary care doctors, Fort Collins pediatricians and other specialists, as well as Loveland doctors and Greeley doctors who have privileges to practice in the hospital.
This has been a long time in coming. The PVH 19-acre site is landlocked by neighborhoods and businesses. Because of this, we’ve always had to identify other ways to increase services rather than expanding on the hospital’s site.
Growth, aging building drive project
By 2012, the original hospital had been absorbed by 17 major additions that resulted in the 700,000-square-foot Poudre Valley Hospital and the so-called “A” Building, above.
In the late 1990s, we built the Harmony Campus to accommodate outpatient services while inpatient care remained at PVHS. In 2007, the Medical Center of the Rockies opened to further expand services and add new ones.
However, we’ve reached the critical juncture where the issues of age and expansion needs have collided.
With northern Colorado’s rapid growth, we’ll be in a tight pinch if we sit back and do nothing at PVH. The new building will solve many space issues and expansion needs for years to come.
The oldest part of the existing building dates back to 1925 and includes the original hospital and other areas that are at least a half-century old. Since the original hospital opened, PVH has undergone 17 major additions, transforming the hospital into today’s 700,000-square foot megalith.
We’ve talked for more than 20 years about tearing down and replace the oldest section. This project has been an annual discussion—and over the years some long-time employees have jested that they wondered whether the old section would outlive them.
During the last three decades, the oldest section was fully occupied by non-clinical services. Then, many employees moved across Lemay into the new Westbridge Building that opened three years ago. Now, about 100 employees remain in the oldest section; they will be moved to elsewhere in PVH or off-site locations.
The oldest section is rapidly deteriorating. The foundation has settled and sags. Ancient clay pipes crack. The old walls creak and moan in the wind.
Some employees — this is one of my favorites — claim ghosts haunt the dismal basement, where the morgue was formerly located.
This oldest section demands $1 million a year in upkeep, far from a sound investment considering the building’s decrepit condition.
In April, our board of directors approved a master plan that calls for the demolition and replacement of the oldest section. The first phase will develop the plan for the demolition and relocation of employees currently housed in the section.
Demolition is expected to get underway 2013. The new building is targeted to be completed in 2015.
Tearing down the oldest section might sound easy: Bring in a tall crane with a huge wrecking ball, and, like magic, there sits a big pile of bricks, mortar and rubble ready to be carted away.
But there’s a tough issue: Asbestos was tucked behind the walls prior to 1989 when the EPA banned the use of the toxic substance. The asbestos is harmless as long as walls aren’t breached and asbestos disturbed. Removal will require workers garbed in special asbestos-proof clothing. Federal inspectors will monitor the removal and disposal.
PVH has come a long way since the original hospital was opened 87 years ago. Back then, the tiny hospital stood out by itself, surrounded by corn and beet fields. Cows wandered by. Patients closed windows to keep out the malodorous aroma.
Yes, times have changed, for the better, and, with this new endeavor, we’ll be able to maintain our high-level of services for the community.
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