Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center announced today that it intends to build a new $20 million, 30,000-square-foot cancer center on its campus in Needham.
The new state-of-the-art center, which will consolidate the center's suburban cancer services, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014.
According to a release, groundbreaking for the proposed three-story building is scheduled for the spring of 2012, pending all state and local approvals. JACA Architects of Quincy has been selected for the design.
“This is a unique opportunity to upgrade and expand cancer care to our patients in the western suburbs,” said Eric Buehrens, the medical center's interim president and chief executive officer. “The new cancer center in Needham will allow us to provide our patients the same world class-care available at BIDMC without them having to travel to downtown Boston.”
The project is the second phase of an expansion of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham that began in 2009 with the opening of a new emergency department and inpatient wing, the hospital said.
Needham economic development director Devra Bailin said the hospital notified the town’s planning office as a courtesy two weeks ago, but has yet to submit any official plans or proposals. Bailin also said the hospital notified its Needham neighbors at a meeting held last night.
“They’ve obviously started by talking to the neighborhood, which is the right way to do it,” Bailin said.
Bailin said “there are a lot of issues that still have to be addressed,” including the likelihood that the new building will require the town to grant the hospital exceptions from zoning regulations. Currently, the hospital’s campus is zoned in a special medical “overlay district” that restricts the allowed density of its use.
Without having received specific plans, Bailin declined to endorse the project outright. However, she said such projects are often a benefit to the town’s economy.
“I think it’s wonderful to have the additional business opportunity,” she said. “As economic development director, I like to see businesses brought in with the attendant employees. And the potential relationship with other downtown businesses, it provides cross synergy. “
The new cancer center in Needham would become home to radiation oncology services previously provided at the medical center's facility in Waltham, which closed in July when the building’s owner, Children’s Hospital Boston, opted to use the space to meet an expanding need for pediatric services.
The new center in Needham is expected to include advanced imaging systems, six new infusion bays, a radiation oncology suite, and access to cutting-edge clinical trials and novel treatments.
“We look forward to bringing our suburban medical and radiation oncology services together under one roof at a modern and comfortable center, and at the same time have the opportunity to expand services for our community,” said John Fogarty, president and chief executive officer at BID-Needham.
The move follows the 2009 opening of Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Joan and Jim Vernon Cancer Center in Newton. That $36 million cancer center drastically expanded the hospital’s radiation oncology services.
Fogarty said he personally met with Needham neighbors in advance of the Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center's public announcement, calling the preliminary gathering cordial.
“It’s good practice to include your neighbors in what’s going on as early in process as possible,” Fogarty said.
According to Fogarty, neighbors expressed concerns about parking, traffic, disruptive construction and the ultimate appearance of the facility.
“There’s still a lot for us to work through,” Fogarty acknowledged. “But at the end of the day, when the facility is up and operating, I think it will be something the hospital and the town can both be proud of.”
Fogarty said that the design process for the building was just beginning, but would include traffic and parking studies. He said the hospital anticipated being able to provide necessary parking.
If the hospital is able to provide onsite parking, it would eliminate at least one potential stumbling block toward town approval. Concerns about parking shortages downtown had long delayed the approval of the Theater Block project, another proposed Needham development, until the go-ahead finally came in August.
Fogarty said that while the needs of patients came first, the final design would be adjusted to blend in with the “generally suburban nature of the environment.”
According to Fogarty, the new building will probably be the last major project on the Needham campus, as it will take up much of the remaining space in the footprint. He also stressed that the center would only house around 15 to 20 employees and a similar number of patients at any given time, limiting disruptive traffic. The center will be open during business hours either five or six days a week.
Fogarty said that while the construction was not as major as the recent project that renovated the emergency room and inpatient wing on the campus, the project would provide construction jobs. He said he had assured residents the hospital would work to make sure contractors park in appropriate areas and properly store construction materials.
Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.