LYNN — The City Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to amend zoning to allow for a medical village that would replace Union Hospital, but city officials are also planning for how the remainder of the site will be developed.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, a 37,000 square-foot, $23 million facility, or medical village, would offer urgent care, basic lab and radiology services, outpatient psychiatry services and an expanded home for the North Shore Physicians Group Lynn primary and specialty care practice currently located in the West Medical Building on the Union Hospital campus, according to Laura Fleming, a spokeswoman for North Shore Medical Center.
The Department of Public Health approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) in 2016, that will close Union and move the beds to a new Salem campus in 2019. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are part of Partners Healthcare.
The City Council will hold a public hearing regarding amending the zone ordinance to establish a Medical Village Overlay District on all of the land lying between and bounded by Dartmouth Street, Anchor Road, Lynnfield Street and Woodland North. A vote is expected, according to Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi.
Lozzi said zoning currently allows for single-family housing or a hospital. The City Council issued a special permit in the 1950s to allow for the hospital to be there.
Fleming said because the medical village will only require about a quarter of the 20-acre Union campus property (Lynn officials estimate the medical village as one-third of what they say is a 15-plus acre parcel), Partners is working with Lynn city leaders on a plan to sell the remainder for development.
For the remainder of the property, Lozzi said he asked Partners to fund a $30,000 architectural engineering design for a Master Plan, which has been agreed upon.
With the city’s financial difficulties, Lozzi said he negotiated with Partners to fund a plan that would offer the public options and alternatives for the remainder of the parcel, which neighbors could view and offer input on.
“I have a preference for a hospital there,” Lozzi said. “If they are going to leave, I would like a master plan drafted up so both the community and I can see possible alternatives that could go in there.”
James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said the master plan would be a four-to-five-week process where a company or architect/planner would be selected by Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn), the city’s development bank. He said planners would put together some proposals and a community process would determine what uses would fit in with the neighborhood.
Lamanna said a second rezone would encompass that. He said some mixed use, with residential or business on site could be a good idea.
Lozzi said the city is not pushing Union Hospital out, that Partners has decided the hospital is leaving — when they leave, he said the master plan could yield a vision with possible restaurants and shops. The vision could be a mixed use with some commercial if the neighbors find that attractive and desirable enough.
“We can’t dictate what definitively would go there,” Lozzi said. “We’re just hoping this would facilitate and encourage a potential developer, knowing the community would be receptive to a particular idea or alternative. And that’s the goal of the master plan. It doesn’t dictate what would definitely occur, but we would certainly bend over backwards for a developer if they’re willing to accommodate the wishes of the community.”
The closure of Union Hospital has been a contentious issue in the city, with residents insisting that a city of 92,000 should have its own hospital and not have to travel to Salem for care.
Fleming has said the medical village is the result of nearly two years of meetings among NSMC, Lynn elected officials, healthcare advocates and the public to develop a plan to meet the long-term urgent/emergent health care needs of Lynn residents after Union Hospital closes.
She confirmed that Partners has agreed to fund a $30,000 study for the remainder of the Union property.
“Ensuring that this land is used most appropriately is important to all of us,” Fleming said. “The study will be overseen by the city and include a thoughtful process to fully understand and consider the priorities of the city and neighborhood and enable a feasible plan for redevelopment.”