MMH growth on the horizon

MARIETTA – Earth-moving activity has begun on the six-acre lot owned by Marietta’s Memorial Health System at the corner of East Eighth and Wayne streets just off Pike Street in preparation for the construction of at least two new office buildings.

“It looks like they’re getting ready to build something, but we haven’t had any notices yet,” said Wayne Street resident Dave Emerick who was watching the work from his home directly across the street Tuesday.

No actual building construction has begun at the new site, and the project is only in the very preliminary stages of clearing, grading and placing fill dirt on the property, according to Kevin Malcolm, vice president of the Memorial Health System.

“We’re looking at having at least a couple of office buildings and potentially as many as four in the long term at the site, which is across East Eighth Street from our current Wayne Street campus,” he said.

The buildings will each include about 10,000 square feet and will house out-patient physicians and services, according to Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System.

“Our goal is to consolidate our outpatient services into one complex, which will also relieve some pressure on services now provided from our main campus,” she said, adding that the move will help improve access for those requiring out-patient services.

Offenberger said drawings for the first two buildings at the Wayne Street site are being completed, and construction is expected to take between 12 and 15 months.

“The total estimated cost will be from $15 million to $20 million,” she said.

Eric Lambert, a project manager with the city engineering department, said the health system had obtained a development permit to begin the work of scraping topsoil off the property and testing the ground for its ability to hold the weight of any new structures.

“They’ll be taking measurements to determine whether there is any settling of the ground in that area,” he said, adding that current plans for the property also include placing approximately eight feet of structured fill across the site.

Connie Hoblitzell, zoning and floodplain manager for Washington County, said a permit had also been issued to allow the health system to place the fill dirt on the property as the newly-built structures will have to be elevated out of the flood plain.

“But the fill permit is the only thing they’ve applied for so far,” she said.

Current regulations require that commercial structures built within the flood plain must either be elevated above the 100-year flood level or they must be flood-proofed.

“We’ll be excavating and then filling to raise the property above the flood plain,” Malcolm said Tuesday.

The third phase of the city’s River Trail project also moved onto Wayne Street Tuesday. The trail will run on the right of way along the east side of Wayne to East Eighth Street, then along the health system property boundary on East Eighth.

Malcolm said the health system is working with the city on coordinating the office construction with the River Trail project.

Offenberger noted that while the expansion is needed at the Wayne Street campus, the health system, like other medical facilities across the nation, must continue to maintain efficiencies throughout the system.

“While improving patient access and services, we must also continue to keep our operating costs in line,” she said.

Last week it was reported that Marietta Memorial Hospital is looking to reduce the number of positions to deal with changes in how health care is being provided, but the facility is not planning layoffs for the time being.

Offenberger said last week that hospital officials have met with staff throughout the organization to discuss changes in health care delivery nationwide and how those changes may affect local operations.