LYNN — City officials will hold a public meeting later this month to plan for the future redevelopment of the portion of the Union Hospital site, which won’t be used for the medical village that’s slated to open in the fall of 2019.
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.
A 37,000 square-foot, $23 million medical village, the opening of which is slated to coincide with the closure of Union Hospital, will take up a quarter of the 20-acre campus. Partners HealthCare will sell the remainder of the property.
Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he asked Partners to fund a $30,000 Master Plan, which will propose possible future uses for the rest of the site. With those funds, the city has enlisted the services of Metropolitan Area Planning Council to prepare the study, which will also recommend changes to the zoning on the property.
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.
A preliminary public meeting for the Master Plan process will be held on Monday, Aug. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
“It’s a terrible disappointment that we’re losing the hospital, but we’re trying to make the best situation out of it,” Lozzi said.
Lozzi said the session is intended to give the public a chance to weigh in with ideas for the possible future use of the site, as city officials will use that input during the planning process.
“I think the city is very pliable and open to the various ideas that will come up and I think once those ideas are developed, we can explore and make a call as to which are more viable,” Lozzi said. “I hope we come to a consensus where we could call it a Master Plan. That’s the goal, but there may be more than one alternative that the neighbors and community may not decide on.”
Although city officials and community members may be in support of a particular use of the property, it’s ultimately up to a potential developer what to build on the site, Lozzi said. Partners decides who buys the property and what’s done with it.
Lozzi said the city can’t dictate what would go there, but officials are hoping the process will facilitate and encourage a potential developer, knowing the community would be receptive to a particular idea or alternative. He cited a mixed use redevelopment as something he would be in favor of.
“By doing this, we’re not … putting the cart ahead of the horse, but getting a jump, a head start on shaping what eventually we would like to see there,” Lozzi said. “This way, the community would have more say in the beginning of the process.”
Laura Fleming, a spokeswoman for North Shore Medical Center, said at the request of the city, NSMC has provided funding for Lynn to engage a Master Planner to ensure residents have the opportunity to share their thoughts about the future development of the Union Hospital site.
“Through this Master Planning process, the planner will identify priorities of city leaders, neighborhood residents, as well as Lynn residents in general,” Fleming said in a statement. “That information will be incorporated into the Request for Proposals NSMC/Partners plans to send out to developers in the fall.
“Other than demolishing the three small medical office buildings related to the Medical Village project, NSMC has no plans to demolish the remainder of the Union Hospital building. Any plans for the remaining Union Hospital building will be determined by the plans the developer puts forward to the city for approval.”
The closure of Union Hospital has been a contentious issue for residents who insist that a city of 92,000 should have its own hospital and not have to travel to Salem for care.
Lozzi called the decision to close Union “frustrating and discouraging,” but said through several years of meetings, NSMC agreed to construct a medical village facility on the site, which will offer urgent care, lab and radiology services, primary care and specialty care practices.