New home on Mesa for Planned Parenthood
The Westside's Planned Parenthood has relocated to a commercial/office center on the Mesa.
After 43 years on West Colorado Avenue, the new address for the reproductive-care entity - controversial for performing abortions - is 3480 Centennial Blvd. The one-story structure was built three years ago by the Osteopathic Founda-tion, which named it the Centennial Health building.
The clear advantages are a nearly new facility, more space (11,700 square feet, compared with the previous 2,800) and considerably more parking (only 12 spaces were in the lot at 1330 W. Colorado Ave.), according to Monica McCafferty, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), with which the local agency is affiliated.
However, she agreed in a phone interview, the Centennial Health Building's secluded location within the 8.3-acre Grandview Commons office/retail center - which is fed by private access streets north of the King Soopers store at Fillmore and Centennial - also made it desirable. A small hill is on its west side, and one of those streets, a medical/ office complex (the Cen-tennial Professional Build-ing) and a parking lot are between it and Centennial Boulevard. As a result, Planned Parenthood is 100 yards or more from the nearest public sidewalk (along Centennial). The Center on Centennial rehabilitation facility and parking area provide an additional buffer to the north and east.
When Planned Parenthood was on Colorado Avenue, people opposed to abortions could (and did) position themselves on the public sidewalk right next to the property and offer pro-life alternatives to pregnant women as they came and went. That's impossible now. “Obviously, the fact that it's on private property was a factor that played into the decision,” McCafferty said. “We had to think how we could make this experience best for the client.”
The distance issue is an “aggravation,” conceded Father Bill Carmody, the Catholic priest who has been leading pro-life demonstrations (actually, he describes them as prayer services for those involved in the abortions) outside the Westside Planned Parenthood since 1993. However, “we're continuing business as usual” on the Centennial Boulevard sidewalk, added Carmody, who works as the Respect Life director for the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs. In fact, he said, “we've had a lot of people stop and talk and ask us what we're doing. It might be because it's brand new. But on Colorado Avenue, quite frankly, we were part of the furniture.”
The two sides disagree on who has the most public support. McCafferty referred to Carmody's group as a “small but vocal minority,” while he pointed out that in 2004, when Planned Parenthood proposed an expansion to the Colorado Avenue location, strong neighborhood opposition surfaced.
The Planned Parenthood relocation was done quietly. Rather than the property being bought under the agency name (as was the case at 1330 W. Colorado), a group named Majors Property LLC is listed as the owner for 3480 Centennial. The LLC - which has the address of a Denver law firm - was formed in October 2009 and negotiated the deal last February with the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation. Doris Ralston, the foundation's executive director, said in a recent interview she did not know that Planned Parenthood was involved. “We thought it was a real estate firm or developer,” she said.
But Ralston did not express regret for the sale. “The [foundation] board did what it needed to do, which was to sell the property,” Ralston said. In owning the building, “we were spending over $1 million a year we didn't have.”
McCafferty, asked about the ownership arrangement, declined to elaborate on the connection between the LLC and Planned Parenthood, other than to say that the LLC “is a separate entity.” She added in a follow-up e-mail that “it is our organization's protocol and customary practice not to unveil construction details for competitive reasons as well as to protect the privacy and safety of our business partners. We have learned from past experiences that it is our responsibility to protect the privacy of our business partners so they and their families are not susceptible or inclined to unnecessary attention.”
Carmody scoffed at such concerns. Although it's true that Planned Parenthood facilities have been attacked elsewhere and a couple of doctors murdered, he said that through the years his group has never been violent. He said the agency's actions are a sign that “evil has to hide.”
When Planned Parenthood had proposed its Colorado Avenue expansion in 2004, the city sent out postcards to neighborhood people so they could comment. However, no cards were sent out regarding the relocation to Centennial. Dick Anderwald, a city planner, said the reason is that the site had already been approved for medical offices, so “the change of tenancy from one medical office use to another is permitted under City Code without regard to the type of medical use.”
Neither Anderwald nor planner Larry Larsen responded to a Westside Pioneer question as to whether the city has an obligation to notify people on issues known to be “controversial.”
One neighborhood complaint received by the city since the move expressed concern about the proximity to Coronado High School, about half a mile away. Asked about this, McCafferty said PPRM has “no plans for outreach” to Coronado. She noted that under state law, girls under 18 cannot have an abortion without parental notification (although they don't need it to get help with contraception).
McCafferty would not say how many abortions the Westside Planned Parenthood performs in a year. However, she made the point that Planned Parenthood provides many other services to help women (primarily between the ages of 18 and 34) with reproductive care. “Prevention is 93 percent of what we do,” she said.
Westside Pioneer article