Hospital an asset, even if hard on Everett neighbors

Walk along my street, or anywhere in the vicinity of Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby campus, and you’ll see signs of discontent.

Amid yard signs for political candidates and placards that say “A Library Champion Lives Here” there are signs with a more pointed message. With the bright yellow of a caution sign, these yard signs voice strong opinion: “No New Re-Zone. A Deal is a Deal! PEMC,” some of them say, while others are emblazoned with the more succinct “No Providence Rezone.”

Last week, someone in the neighborhood sent an e-mail saying they’d be interested in knowing what I think. Like everyone in northwest Everett, I have watched construction around the Colby campus, first the new Providence Regional Cancer Partnership building north of the hospital, and now the new garage to the east.

Already, many neighbors were angered by the removal of a block of historically significant homes to make way for Providence growth. For many who have attended meetings and battled new expansion plans, last week brought a discouraging decision.

The Everett City Council, on a 6-1 vote Wednesday night, approved a plan that would allow a rezone, giving Providence Everett Medical Center a green light to build — and build big — on Everett Community College’s athletic field complex.

Part of the expansion plan is a land-swap agreement with EvCC. The hospital owns a former shopping center on N. Broadway, which the college just west of Broadway hopes to acquire. Wednesday’s council approval had strings attached. Providence would have to prove a need for more beds before starting on a 175-foot medical tower on the college site. Already, a patient tower is being built east of the current hospital.

Judging by the signs, a good many of my neighbors are unhappy about all this. I understand, I really do. Way back before we bought our house in 1985, we looked at a house on Wetmore Avenue. All that was across the street from the Wetmore house were more old houses and a great view of the Cascades. Now, that home looks directly at the new cancer center. The view is gone.

I’m sorry for the hardships of homeowners close to the hospital, but I am the wrong person to ask if neighbors are looking for support in anti-expansion efforts. I see a hospital — a full-service, top-flight, lifesaving medical center — as a plus.

I live two blocks from the Providence Colby campus. Sometimes I wonder, would my husband still be alive if he’d had his heart attack at home in 1998, and not at Everett’s Forest Park?

Later that year, at about 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 24, I drove myself the two blocks to the hospital before giving birth to my younger son. One of my kids offered to take the wheel, but I figured the last thing I needed that morning was a 14-year-old driver.

One Christmas week several years back, my college-age daughter spent some time at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center. She needed the nuclear medicine services. If those services had been available nearby, it would still have been hard — but not quite so hard.

As a little boy, my youngest had to get staples in his head. One summer night, he bounced off a bed and bumped into a dresser drawer. He had a scary-looking wound. This terrified mom was grateful to be minutes from an emergency room.

If I lived across from Alderwood mall near Lynnwood High School, I’d be upset that after the school is rebuilt miles away, more retail will likely take its place. A hospital isn’t a mall. It isn’t a hotel, a supermarket or a high-rise condo complex. To me, a hospital, even a huge one, is a neighborhood asset.

I hear and respect the views of neighbors with the yellow signs. Joel Norris and his wife, Carolyn Powell, live west of Colby Avenue, several blocks from the college field. Norris, 36, is concerned that the hospital will grow too large.

“I’m afraid it’s going to change the nature of our neighborhood,” said Norris, adding that he doesn’t think Providence has been forthright with its growth plans.

Amy Slepski, 41, said she and her husband, Mark, bought their house partly because of its proximity to the hospital. Their 4-year-old daughter was born prematurely and needed care. Slepski, though, doesn’t see why Providence can’t spread its services over a wider area, using its Pacific Avenue campus and the Broadway shopping center property.

Keeping the neighborhood as it is, she said, “is why we have zoning.”

Many, many people agree with her. I’m just not one of them.

Often, I’ll hear helicopters taking off from the roof of Providence Everett Medical Center. Sometimes they’re carrying patients who can’t be treated here to a Seattle hospital.

I see a nearby hospital as a comfort. The better that hospital is, the more comfortable I am.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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