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St. Anthony: $435 million economic engine

The $435 million St. Anthony hospital in Lakewood will create 2,400 jobs and bring $336 million annually into the economy.

What’s your take on the economic impact? Take a poll at the end of this blog.

The $435 million St. Anthony Medical Campus under construction in Lakewood will open ahead of schedule and under budget. Once Lakewood’s first hospital is up and running, it’s expected to create 2,400 jobs and pump $336 million into the local economy each year.Finishing touches are being put on the eight-story hospital tower at Union Boulevard and West 2nd Boulevard, on a 50-acre site that previously was the western edge of the Federal Center. The hospital is scheduled to take its first patients around June, about six months ahead of the anticipated opening when Centura Health, St. Anthony Central Hospital, and Catholic Health Initiatives broke ground on the 272-room hospital on Sept. 19, 2007. It will replace the aging St. Anthony Central just south of Sloan’s Lake in Denver. The campus also includes the new OrthoColorado Hospital.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Anyone who wants to see the economy grow is sure to applaud the opening of the hospital. A study by the Lewin Group on behalf of the American Hospital Association, estimates the new hospital will generate 2,415 new jobs for the West side.  Some 1,150 0f them will be full-time employees at the hospital, with the hospital being the catalyst for another 1,265.

In total, the new medical campus is expected to have a $336 million a year economic impact on the area. St. Anthony Central had a total payroll of $99.86 in its last fiscal year.

“This is going to have a powerful, positive impact on Lakewood and Jefferson County,” said Kevin McCasky, president and CEO of the Jefferson Economic Council.

Real estate boost

Beneficiaries should include the real estate market, both on the rental and for-sale side.

“Definitely,” said Amy Terry, a broker with 8z Real Estate. “Generally, people working at the hospital are going to want to live close to it. That opens up rental opportunities for some homes that are vacant. I would say that Lakewood doesn’t have as much (for-sale) housing inventory as the rest of the market area, because people like to live near the foothills. But I would say there is enough inventory from starter homes high-end homes to satisfy the needs of a broad-range of people. There are a good variety of starter condos and townhomes in the area, as well as higher-priced single-family homes.”

Also, the campus is across the street from the new FasTracks light rail station, scheduled to open in 2013. It also will be served by a RTD Park & Ride facility.

Team work key

Sam Burnette, a principal of the Nashville, Tn., architectural firm that designed the hospital, Earl Swensson Associates Inc., better known as ESa, said the construction came together seamlessly, which is one of the reasons they are on pace to beat their opening deadline.

“We had a nice team approach with GE Johnson (the general contractor), the owners, the leadership team, the design team, which was our firm, and the many engineers involved. We all collaborated and worked together very efficiently and smoothly,” he said. “There was also a lot of very savvy ordering of materials. For example, we didn’t have to sit around waiting for the steel and glass to arrive for the elevators. Everything was ordered in a way so it was there when we needed it.”

Also, they were able to take advantage of falling commodity trends. The savings in raw materials will be passed on to the owners, although he said he couldn’t yet give an estimate of the amount, in part because it is such a complex target.

“That was a very unusual trend,” Burnette said “I would call it a once-in-a lifetime trend. We had reverse inflation. It was like they had rolled the prices of raw materials back to 2001 to 2003 levels.”

Big, with room to grow

In addition to the job creation from the hospital when it is up and running, it already employed about 650 construction workers at the peak of the building cycle, said Kevin Fone, the project superintendent for GE Johnson Construction. There also is room to grow “vertically and horizontally,” he said.┬áThe main patient tower will have 560,000 square feet of space and the OrthoColorado hospital wil have 140,000 square feet, for a total of 700,000 square feet, said

“It’s a very large project,” Fone said. “Let’s qualify that to say if you take an existing hospital like a St. Joe’s or a St. Anthony’s, they might be over 100 years old and as they needed more space they add and add and add. But that is not an efficient way to build a hospital. The only way to grow them is horizontally, and that is not efficient.” And in a land-locked area such at St. Anthony’s Central, the only way to acquire more land is to buy neighboring building, which is not not feasible. St. Anthony’s Central sits on only 16 acres. Also, it’s mechanical systems were obsolete, and it wasn’t cost effective to upgrade it to modern standards. That site is for sale, although some medical care facilities will remain there.

The medical campus will provide state-of-the-art:

  • Cardiac services
  • Orthopedics
  • Neurosciences facilities
  • Trauma and emergency care
  • Oncology operations
  • Women’s Services.

There will be two helipads, one on the roof and the other on the ground.

Some “gee whiz” facts:

  • It took more than 300,000 man-hours to build.
  • It wil have 5,000 light switches.
  • It will have 14,000 electrical outlets.
  • It will incorporate “light harvesting” technology to save electricity.

Not LEED-certified

The new hospital will have many green and sustainable features, but it will not be certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building. “We looked at a lot of LEED and green initiatives and incorporated them into the building,” architect Burnette said. One of the main reasons the decision was made not to have it LEED-certified, is because they wanted constructed as as quickly as possible, and certification would have slowed the process, he said.

Burnette said he is proud to have participated in the creation of the St. Anthony Medical Campus.

“This is a medical campus that will serve the area and its owners for another 50 to 100 years,” he said. “I guarantee you more redevelopment and retail and residential projects will follow it. It is such a critical mass that everyone is going to want to be near it. I’m already seeing it. You can drive down Union Boulevard and see a lot of older buildings being re-done and revamped.”

How do you rate the expected economic impact of the St. Anthony Medical Campus in Lakewood?

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Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com