$40 million project planned to complete top two floors in St. Mary’s Hospital tower

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Construction is expected to begin later this year on a $40 million project to complete two of four vacant floors on the 12-story patient tower at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

The 11th floor will house a nursing unit caring for patients who’ve undergone surgery. The 12th floor will accommodate an expanded rehabilitation unit.

The project will include the installation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, wiring and other infrastructure on not only the 11th and 12th floors, but also the ninth and 10th floors, although those floors will remain vacant for time being.

Ongoing revenues from hospital operations as well as savings will fund the work.

The project will enhance the health care services offered at St. Mary’s as well as the Grand Valley economy, said Kelly Flenniken, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “We’re all going to see and feel the benefits of this for years to come.”

Local construction firms are expected to serve as contractors and subcontractors. The ripple effects of additional purchases and wages will pass through the economy,  Flenniken said.

Hospital administrators announced the next phase of what’s been called the Century Project one day after the 117th anniversary of the opening of St. Mary’s in Grand Junction in 1896.

“We’ve made a little progress since then,” said Michael McBride, president and chief executive officer, calling the additional work in the tower the “next step.”

The 12-story tower, part of what at $276 million was one of the largest and most expensive construction projects in Grand Junction history, opened in January 2010. The top four floors were left vacant, though, until additional space for patient care was needed.

“We’re at that point today,” McBride said.

A surgical unit will move from a second-floor space constructed in the 1990s to the 11th floor of the tower. The additional space will accommodate an expansion with 32 private rooms for patients recovering from surgery who require extended care.

A rehabilitation unit currently housed  on the third floor of a portion of the hospital constructed in the 1950s will be moved to the 12th floor.  The move will offer space to accommodate more patients with 24 private rooms. The new unit also will feature the latest designs and technologies to treat those patients.

Dan Prinster, vice president of business development at St. Mary’s Hospital, said design work on the infrastructure has begun and construction is expected to begin in the fall. The 11th and 12th floors should be ready for use by the fall of 2015, Prinster said.

At a projected $23.3 million, construction will account for more than half of the overall cost of the project. Another $5.3 million has been budgeted for fees, permitting, project management and contingencies.

The remainder of the budget includes $4.7 million for design and consultants, $3.6 million in equipment and $3.1 million for information technology and communications.

McBride said requests for proposals for general contracting and construction management have been distributed to only local firms.

Those firms in turn have been encouraged to hire local subconstractors.

McBride said the completion of two more floors in the patient tower reflects not only the hospital’s commitment to offering the best in health care services, but also confidence the local economy is recovering and will grow. “Now is the time to make this investment.”

Flenniken said that investment “means a lot” in terms of the purchases and wages the general contractor and subcontractors will make and pay as well as the additional spending by employees.

Moreover, the project serves to solidify the position of Grand Junction as a regional health care hub and constitutes yet another local asset that attracts businesses to the area, she said.