2014 | News

At Long Last, Suburban Hospital Breaks Ground On Expansion Project

share this

Suburban Hospital and Montgomery County officials on Tuesday celebrated the groundbreaking of the facility’s long fought over expansion project.

After years of opposition from neighbors — and a complicated process to allow for a new clinical center to be built on a neighborhood street — the hospital says it’s finally on its way to a much-needed capacity boost and facility upgrade for patients.

“To have the kinds of facilities that match the staff and the capabilities here are really what this is all about,” said Brian Gragnolati, a senior vice president with The Johns Hopkins Health System that oversees the hospital’s operations. “Now, it took us a while to get here, but I think that patience is incredibly important.”

The $225 million enhancement will include a new, 1,125-space parking garage, which will be built on the site of the existing parking garage once an interim lot is completed. The new garage is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

Then, the hospital will build a four-story, 235,000-square-foot new clinical center on what’s now Lincoln Street. The existing hospital building will remain. The hospital bought the houses on Lincoln Street, asked the county to approve an abandonment of the street and eventually got county approval of the zoning required for the building.

That was in 2010.

It wasn’t until last year that the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld a 2011 County Circuit Court decision to allow the expansion of Suburban Hospital despite opposition from surrounding homeowners worried about traffic flow, noise and other potential disturbances.

In April 2013, members of the Huntington Terrace Citizens Association opposed the project in front of the county Planning Board. The hospital (8600 Old Georgetown Rd.) successfully argued for approval of the project with remarks from community members who had received urgent medical care there.

The last major expansion at Suburban came 35 years ago and the hospital hopes the new clinical building will be ready to open by fall 2019 to coincide with its 75th anniversary.

“Brian [Gragnolati] has a few scars from this process. I promise I have my share as well,” Councilmember Roger Berliner said Tuesday. “To knit community together, to balance concerns of the immediate neighbors with the larger desire of our community to have a state-of-the-art institution which we so deserve is not always easy and it does require perseverance. This institution exhibited that. It did not give up at the first fight.”

The clinical center will feature new operating rooms with new MRI equipment and robotics, private patient rooms, medical space for specialty physicians and a new traffic and parking pattern while entering the hospital property.

“This project will provide the home and the house for private rooms and new [operating room] technology and we will have a beautiful garage,” hospital President Gene Green said. “I’ve never seen such excitement over parking space, but it’s true.”

Green promised the new facility would allow Suburban to continue and expand its joint programming with institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (which sits just across Old Georgetown Road) and Johns Hopkins.

The two-phase project is expected to be complete in 2019. The hospital is set to begin some site work this fall. Meanwhile, Suburban will continue a fundraising campaign to help pay for the project, which is being funded with hospital reserves, tax-exempt bonds and private donations.