by Lee Hogan
Posted 2/26/2014 10:26 am
Updated 3 weeks ago
Baptist Health System cleared another hurdle Tuesday in its plan to build a 200,000-SF hospital in Conway.
Conway City Chief of Staff Jack Bell confirmed Wednesday that the city council unanimously voted to approve a rezoning of land recently acquired by Baptist to an O-1 (office) classification.
The area was previously zoned as a C-4 (commercial) classification, which is a specialized commercial zone ideal for an indoor shopping mall, City Director of Planning and Development Bryan Patrick said.
Patrick said Baptist originally planned to move forward with the C-4 zoning, which was the only classification of its kind in the Conway area, but too many foreseen variances influenced the change.
When looking at possible rezoning options, Patrick said several options including an S-1 (institutional) classification, like the Conway Regional Medical Center, were considered, but an O-1 classification better fit the needs of Baptist, which included plans for a medical office building in a future phase of the project.
An O-1 classification is meant for a large office complex like Acxiom, but Patrick said a hospital is allowed under the classification by rights.
Baptist announced plans to build a hospital in Conway in November. Officials expect construction to begin sometime this year, and expect to open the 100-bed hospital in 2016.
Bell said Baptist's real estate agent told the council it hoped to break ground on the facility this summer.
In the meantime, Patrick said Baptist's next step is submitting a package of plans — which include site, lighting, grading and building elevation — to the city's development department for internal review. Once given the go-ahead, Baptist can move onto permits and undergo a life safety review before finally obtaining a building permit.
Patrick said Baptist submitted a development review package about a year ago, but substantial changes for the site have incurred since, which will require resubmission. Still, Patrick said plans for a ground-breaking this summer are feasible as long as the second development review package is submitted within the next month or two.
The Log Cabin Democrat reported Feb. 13 that Baptist plans to use an off-site construction facility in Conway to build pre-fabricated "pod-like" structures that will be delivered to the hospital site.
According to Avere Real Estate's website, Baptist's Conway hospital plans to have seven operating rooms, three cath labs and three procedure rooms. The website also shows plans for a 40,000-SF medical office building.
Putting the Pieces Together
Since making its intentions public, Baptist has doled out more than $10 million to acquire 37 acres west of Interstate 40 near exit 129 on Exchange Avenue.
In February, Baptist Health President and CEO Russ Harrington told Arkansas Business the urging of about 30 area doctors, in addition to about 15 percent of its patients coming from the Faulkner County area, aided Baptist’s decision to come to Conway.
"It’s always been an important part of our market, and this gives us a chance to solidify that and hold on to it," Harrington said. "We also see it as an opportunity to spread our area of service."
Conway Regional Health System operates what's now the only hospital in the city, Conway Regional Medical Center. The system's board of directors announced in October that it would explore "potential strategic affiliation options" for the system, including partnering with another health care provider or system.
Conway Regional operates a 154-bed acute care nonprofit medical center, an outpatient imaging center, an outpatient surgery center, Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital and several primary care clinics.