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City Council OK's reduced height limit (165 feet) for planned hospital on Mesa


A graphic combines artwork with an aerial photograph to show the juxtaposition of a 51-acre property - approved in 2015 for a Penrose-St. Francis hospital campus at Fillmore and Centennial - and the adjacent 28-acre site which has now been added to the project plan.
Courtesy of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services
The tallest building in the future Penrose-St. Francis hospital complex on the Mesa will not be 200 feet high. But exactly how much shorter remains unknown for now.
       Without dissent in May, Colorado Springs City Council approved a revised project concept plan - including a height limit reduced to 165 feet from the original 200 - for the future facility northeast of the intersection of Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street.
       In addition to height, the council vote lets 28 adjacent acres be added to the 51-acre project area the elected body had initially said yes to in 2015. The new acreage has been used for many years as an asphalt batch plant (an operation that will cease).

Margaret Sabin, the CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, speaks at a public meeting last fall in the Coronado High cafeteria. After the meeting, a "working committee" of residents and Penrose-St. Francis officials was formed to process various issues with the planned hospital campus on the Mesa.
Westside Pioneer photo

       According to Penrose-St. Francis Health Services officials, the added acreage will allow the development to be spread out more. For example, even with the reduced height, the envisioned floor area in the “campus” - as P-SF calls it - will increase from just over 1 million square feet to 1.85 million.
       Although there was no citizen opposition, James Kin, speaking for a neighborhood committee that's met several times with P-SF leaders, emphasized that the group is still worried about how the project will affect the Mesa's low-density character. He said the committee only supports the property expansion because it allows “more creativity in their design.”
       Citing Colorado Springs Comprehensive Plan elements that call for harmonizing development with the area's “natural setting,” Kin clarified that the committee's members “do not see that [165 feet] as the height of any building there.”
       Prior to the original hospital proposal - approved by City Council in late 2015 - the maximum allowed building height on the site had been 45 feet.
       Council votes on the matter May 23 also broadened the planned unit development (PUD) zone - previously approved for the 51 acres - to encompass the batch-plant site and OK'd a minor amendment to the Hill Properties Master Plan that the site is part of. The actions followed the lead of the council-appointed Plan-ning Commission in April, which had also voted without dissent.
       No schedule has been announced for construction. The next step for P-SF will be the preparation of a development plan, which by definition must provide such details as building locations, sizes, designs and precise building heights.
       Kin said that's where the “real work” will take place, in terms of neighborhood review.
       For its part, P-SF has pledged to continue discussions with the working committee. Margaret Sabin, the CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, said the organization has a “track record” of such cooperation, specifically with people living near its downtown-area hospital off North Cascade Avenue, the first building of which went up in 1954.
       “We're committed to an aesthetically beautiful and pleasing facility,” she said of the Mesa project. She also said the concept plan displays extensive open space and hiking trails.
       Several councilmembers expressed appreciation for the cooperative effort to date between P-SF and the neighborhood. Council President Richard Skorman especially lauded the shared interest in aesthetics. “I don't know that we've done a good job in the past [addressing] the natural and built environment and how they work together,” he commented. “Let's use this as an example of what we need to do right now and in the future.”
       Councilmember Don Knight, whose District 1 takes in the campus site, said he supported the project when the tallest building could have been 200 feet, and he still supports it at 165. Furthermore, because the hospital will be on Fillmore Hill above an industrial area, he asserted that “nobody west of I-25 will have their view blocked.”
       The main focus of the Mesa location will be “full-scale rehabilitation” of individuals who have received acute care, Sabin said, thus “filling an important and as-of-now unmet need in our community.”
       Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is part of Centura Health, which owns 17 hospitals across Colorado and western Kansas. Centura, in turn, is under the nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) organization, based in Englewood, Colorado, which has a presence in 17 states, according to its Facebook page.
       CHI is the listed owner of the 51-acre Mesa parcel, having bought it in March 2016.

Westside Pioneer article