Health & Medicine

New UK hospital eventually will replace Chandler, Good Sam

The steel shell of a 12-story hospital the University of Kentucky is scheduled to begin opening in July reached its pinnacle Wednesday, the first major milestone in a construction project not expected to end until 2020.

Once the entire 1.2 million-square-foot hospital is open, a chain reaction of demolition and construction is expected to eventually create an additional 1,000 parking spots and 13 acres for commercial and residential development on UK's campus.

The existing A.B. Chandler Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007 and was bought by UK, will be razed after the new 12-story tower is fully operational around 2020, Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president of health affairs, told the Herald-Leader. Both facilities' employees will be shifted to the new building.

Taking down Good Samaritan will open up more than 13 acres of land that are tentatively slated to become a mixed-use residential and commercial development with shops and apartments, Karpf said.

"That development will serve as a bridge between the campus with downtown and Transylvania University," he said. "It will be a great development for people who want a real urban environment."

Bob Wiseman, UK's vice president for facilities management, said property owners in the area near the north part of campus will have a voice in development of the Good Samaritan property — including the hospital itself, at 310 South Limestone, an adjoining parking lot and several other parking lots in the neighborhood.

Wiseman said that UK, along with architects and area property owners, recently held a design planning session to begin discussing ideas for the property, including types of commercial development and scaling any development to be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood. "It was mainly just to get everybody around the table," Wiseman said.

Razing the Chandler Medical Center will allow for 1,000 additional parking spots to go with the new parking garage UK built in the first stage of constructing the tower.

In addition, the section of Rose Street that goes by the medical center and ends at South Limestone will be converted into a green space, Karpf told more than 600 people who turned out Wednesday for the new tower's "topping out" ceremony.

"The new hospital will result in more than just physical health, it will support economic health and educational progress as well," said Gov. Steve Beshear at the elaborate event.

Attendees sat under a giant tent facing a stage and digital screen as the highest steel beam — adorned with UK Healthcare's insignia as well as a symbolic evergreen tree that is traditional in such ceremonies — was hoisted into place.

The tower, which also will be named the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, must come online one section at a time, beginning with a football field-size emergency room in July 2010, two months before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games come to Lexington.

By the end of June 2011, 128 patient beds, including 48 intensive-care beds, will open on the first two floors of the hospital, Karpf said.

The shell of the entire building, along with equipment and furniture for the first 600,000 square feet of it, is on pace to cost $532 million, paid for with $350 million in bonds and more than $200 million in cash, Karpf said.

The bonds will be repaid over time with hospital revenue, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said.

Outfitting the remaining 600,000 square feet will cost an additional $232 million and is expected to be complete between 2018 and 2020, Karpf said. That financing is being worked out but will include additional bonds, cash from hospital revenue and proceeds from a fund-raising drive.