Building on Years of Service

April 15-21, 2004
Building on Years of Service
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center to Launch Expansion Project

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center announced on April 6 its plans to build a 750-to-800 space parking garage and an adjoining physician’s office building as part of a new, long-range plan. The hospital is also instituting an employee mortgage guarantee program designed to encourage employees to buy homes in the surrounding North Side neighborhood.

“Today we look towards the future,” said Theodore Pasinski, St. Joseph’s president. “With this plan we are renewing our commitment to Syracuse’s North Side community, and keeping the best interests of the community in mind.” Phase I of the long-range plan includes the construction of a new Physician’s Office Building and connecting parking garage. It will begin in the fall and is expected to be completed in 2006. The garage-office building will be built along Townsend Street between Hickory and Union Streets. The structure will be eight to nine stories high. Pasinski hopes the new parking garage will help alleviate current parking problems around the hospital.

“The major concern of neighbors was that we address the parking situation,” he said. “There are people parking all over the place.” Designs and the estimated cost for the garage-office building haven’t been completed. The plan also includes creating a more “park-like” atmosphere along Prospect Avenue. This part of the project will start this summer; overhead utility lines will be moved underground and old-fashioned street lamps will be installed. The hospital already participates in a greening program with the City of Syracuse through which it hopes to plant more trees, shrubs and flowers. Benches also will be installed throughout the hospital campus. “We’re trying to develop more of a campus-type atmosphere and look,” Pasinski said.

Phase II of the long-range plan includes an expansion of St. Joseph’s Emergency Department, the busiest in Central New York. A new waiting room for families along with additional private patient rooms will be constructed in phases over the next 15 years. Pasinski said the design of the expanded emergency department and the inpatient tower probably won’t start for another three to five years. Kathryn Ruscitto, St. Joseph’s senior vice president, said the long-range plan shows St. Joseph’s commitment to Syracuse and the city’s North Side. “In other communities, hospitals have moved out of the city and gone to the suburbs and built new campuses,” Ruscitto said. “We’ve been here for 135 years, and this represents a commitment to stay in the city going forward. We are an economic engine for this part of the city.” St. Joseph’s mortgage program is modeled after similar programs at Syracuse University and Le Moyne College, which have helped about 100 people purchase homes over the past 10 years. The hospital will work with Syracuse Neighborhood Initiatives, Home Headquarters, Inc., and the Northeast Hawley Development Association. The program is a win-win situation for the employee and community said Pasinski.

“We reaffirm our commitment to Syracuse’s North Side by encouraging our employees to live and invest in the area,” he said “At the same time, we hope the program will be an attractive benefit to our employees, many of whom may need additional financial assistance to purchase a home.” The hospital is the third largest employer in the City of Syracuse, with approximately 3,200 full-time employees. Pasinski estimated that 1,300 to 1,400 of its employees live on the North Side. “We hope to increase this number,” he said. Under the mortgage program, St. Joseph’s will guarantee loans for employees at no risk to the lender. Participating employees will benefit by paying less in closing costs and possibly getting lower interest rates on their loans. The mortgage program will go into effect on June 1 as a five-year demonstration program.

To qualify for the program, the house must be the employee’s primary residence and must be a single-family, two-family or town house. Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order, who established the hospital in 1869 and are still active in its ministry today, are pleased to be a part of the long-range plan. “One hundred and thirty-five years ago when our sisters first built a 15-bed hospital on Prospect Hill they did not realize what a gift it would be today,” said Sister Grace Anne. “We are proud to be a part of St. Joseph’s vision for the future.”

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