Providence makes its case for expansion

The way some people are talking, you’d think Providence Everett Medical Center’s plan to expand in north Everett is all about paving the Donovan District to put up a parking lot.

It is really about meeting the health-care needs of a rapidly growing county. As disappointing as it might be to see some homes leveled or moved, it would be devastating to see such a critical member of the community unable to maintain its presence here.

Providence makes a strong case for expanding its footprint in the city and leaders should be ready to support its plans.

Before the city ever designated the Donovan homes a historic district, Providence started buying the houses in the early 1980s in anticipation of the need to expand their facilities to accommodate Snohomish County residents. The hospital already owns these homes. Their tenants were well aware of the situation when they became renters. Neighbors, however, appear to have been caught off guard despite efforts by hospital officials to explain their needs to the community.

What, exactly, is Providence planning to build at the Colby campus? For starters, a new and desperately needed cancer center. It also plans to expand its emergency and surgery services which are already lacking space, especially in the emergency room, and provide additional beds for patients. And yes, a parking garage, which will be erected on a portion of the site where the Donovan houses sit. If people can’t park in a garage, they’ll be parking along neighborhood streets.

Aware of neighbors’ desire to preserve history, the hospital has generously offered to move some of the homes to the old Asarco site if a deal can be worked out with a developer. That hasn’t swayed dissenters who say the homes will no longer be considered historic.

Perhaps the fact that this nonprofit hospital plans to pump $400 million of its own money into this project will persuade some. Or maybe the fact that it provides 3,600 jobs in Everett right now and will boost that number to 5,000 when the projects are completed will garner support. How about the hundreds of thousands of people hospital employees reach each year through one service or another? Services that all of us, whether we live miles from the hospital or literally next door, might need some day.

Everett can’t expect Providence to stay here if it isn’t allowed to expand on its own property. Its departure would be devastating to the area in terms of health care, community service and economic impacts.

Clearly, this community cares about preserving history. Providence’s first 100 years in Everett should count for something on that score, such as another century of caring for us.

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