LYNN — Construction has begun on a $23 million medical village that will replace Union Hospital.
The 41,000-square-foot medical village will encompass a quarter of the 20-acre Union Hospital campus, with construction scheduled to be completed in April 2020 and coincide with Union’s closure.
The closure of Union, built in 1953, will mark the end of an era, leaving the city without a full-service hospital. It also brings a conclusion to a contentious issue. Residents have insisted throughout the process that a city of 94,000 should have its own hospital and not have to travel to Salem for care.
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. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are part of Partners Healthcare.
“Despite the construction fencing that has been put up, it is important for Lynn residents to know that Union Hospital remains open,” said Laura Fleming, a spokeswoman for NSMC. “The emergency department, inpatient rooms, outpatient diagnostics and patient care services all remain operational and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”
Before beginning work on the new medical facility, two buildings will be demolished on the site, the East Medical Building and Hartman Hall.
The medical village, housed in a new two-story building, 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.
When construction is complete, the Union Hospital Emergency Room and related services, including radiology, lab and inpatient beds, will be consolidated at Salem Hospital, which includes a new and expanded emergency room.
When the Salem expansion is complete in October 2019, some services will move over from Lynn, including pediatric and geriatric psychiatry services.
The medical village was the result of nearly two years of meetings among NSMC, Lynn elected officials, health care advocates and the public to develop a plan to meet the long-term urgent/emergency health care needs of Lynn residents.
City officials and Partners are planning for how the rest of the site, which NSMC plans to sell, will be developed. Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, who has been opposed to the closure of Union Hospital, asked Partners to fund a $30,000 Master Plan, which will propose future uses for the rest of the site.
With those funds, the city enlisted the services of Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to prepare the study, which will also recommend changes to the zoning on the property.
Public meetings were held in the city this summer to solicit feedback from residents about redevelopment of the site and surveys were conducted. MAPC is finalizing its study and once completed, the plan will be made public.
Based on the recommendations for reuse of the site, expected in the next several weeks, the City Council may need to make some ordinance changes in January. Zoning currently allows for single-family housing or a hospital. The council issued a special permit in the 1950s to allow for the hospital to be there.
Lozzi said he’d like to see a mixed-use redevelopment of the site, which would include reusing, rather than razing, the existing Union Hospital building. He said potential demolition costs would be from $5 million to $10 million, which may not be feasible for a developer.
There are two components to the property. One side on Woodland Avenue North is ideal for single-family homes. The other remaining portion of the property is where the existing hospital building sits on Lynnfield Street.
Other than single-family homes, survey results for Woodland Avenue North included multi-family homes, open space, and senior living. Results for Lynnfield Street included townhouses, artist living/work space, senior living, mixed use, retail stores, and restaurants.
“What I’ve done with this process is let potential owners know what the community would like to see go in there,” Lozzi said. “The sellers funded the study at my request so they’re cooperating. I’m not too concerned with them as much as I am with whoever the potential buyer is, what their intent would be.
“My goal is we work with the potential buyer, the purchaser of the property would work with the city, and would come out with something pleasing to the community.”