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DENVER-Children’s Hospital, an anchor in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood east of the CBD for more than 100 years, will spend $400 million to move into a new hospital at the Fitzsimons medical center. Work on the estimated 900,000-sf hospital starts in 2003 and wraps up in 2006.

The 270-bed hospital will be the headquarters for the Children’s network of care, which currently includes 14 facilities and outreach to three states. It will be located on 37 acres at the biomedical campus being developed by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Expandable in many ways, the Children’s facility also will house diagnostic and surgery facilities, outpatient clinics, research space, medical staff offices and administrative offices. Additional laboratory and research space will be provided in cooperation with UCHSC. And, there will 2,700 parking spaces.

Mayor Wellington Webb was disappointed, but not surprised, that Children’s Hospital plans to move to Fitzsimons. His first step will be to set up a task force to look at redevelopment options for the existing 27-acre, 900,000-sf facility. Children’s Hospital has agreed to assist with the redevelopment effort. “We also hope Children’s backs up this commitment with a financial investment that will help to make this property attractive to potential buyers,” says Webb. “Hospital facilities have very limited resale potential unless money is invested to make them attractive.”

Webb points out that Denver, in the past decade, went to great lengths to facilitate the hospital’s expansion, including reconstruction of Downing Street. The historically significant Boettcher school was razed in the process and special zoning also approved to meet expansion demands.

The mayor wants to ensure the city’s not left with a white elephant, as occurred in the Uptown neighborhood with St. Luke’s Hospital. It stood vacant for five years before the high-end multifamily developer, Post Properties of Atlanta, came in to redevelop the site, which required abatement of environmental contamination and demolition of several hospital buildings.”We obviously don’t want Children’s move to cause a repeat of the same ‘disinvestment’ scenario in this same Uptown neighborhood,” Webb says.

Children’s Hospital employs more than 2,600 and boasts a payroll in excess of $345 million. Nearby businesses as well as the city will be pinched with the relocation since their customer base lies in the hospital workforce and visitors.

The decision, says Diane Gates Wallach, hospital board chairwoman, “was absolutely compelling in the final analysis,” and more so when the Fitzsimons opportunity came into play. Two years ago, the board reached a crossroads as it examined how existing facilities would keep pace with the hospital’s success and the region’s unprecedented growth.

“One way or another, we needed to build a new Children’s Hospital,” she says. “The Fitzsimons site offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a truly great Children’s Hospital as part of the nation’s most exciting biomedical campus.” It is a vision, she says, “to create a pediatric network, anchored by a great hospital, that will ensure that the families of this region have excellent health care available for their children for the next 100 years.

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