Capitol Hill’s first hospital has come a long way since 1945, when an idealistic group of doctors founded the Group Health Cooperative based on the idea that healthcare should be provided affordably and at hospitals owned and staffed by physicians. They acquired St. Luke’s on 15th at John, and together the hospital and neighborhood grew together for more than seven decades. Group Health became one of the country’s largest consumer-directed healthcare organizations, but in
2015 2017 it was acquired by Kaiser Permanente, one of the biggest not-for-profit health plans in the United States.
As part of an effort to remodel its Capitol Hill campus by 2022, Kaiser announced a $400 million project last year to improve access to primary and specialty care and provide community spaces for public use. The process to shape that project has begun.
The remodeled campus won’t be any bigger than it is now, according to Kaiser Permanente’s Julie Popper, but it will provide better specialty and out-patient care so that members can get the treatment they need and get on with their day.
“We’re not building any higher. We’re not expanding any further. Patients want to get help and go home at the end of the day,” she said. “We really want to bring the building to the cutting edge in healthcare today.”
It is also being planned with sustainability in mind including no new parking and a design that encourages visitors and employees to use transit instead of driving to the campus.
“We’ll redesign the Kaiser Permanente campus within its existing footprint,” a statement on the project reads:
Our goal is to update facilities to better serve our members and the greater community. Currently, more than half the square footage on the existing campus is 50+ years old. Redesign and/or replacement of existing buildings will improve convenience, more effectively utilize space, and support primary and specialty care.
• Updating to a highly accessible and efficient clinic care center
• Minimally disrupting services for our members
• Continuing to support the vital pedestrian corridor on 15th Avenue
• Creating communal spaces for both members and the community
• Infrastructure improvements that lead to a more sustainable facility
• Expand specialty care services
• Utilize technology to deliver personalized care
• Presenting clear and simple wayfinding
• No anticipated changes to current parking count
• Reducing impacts of single occupancy vehicles by incentivizing employees to use alternative modes of transportation
An advisory council made up of community members has been formed that will begin meeting later this year to discuss the project.
“Our goal is to refresh the Capitol Hill campus,” Popper said. “The next step is to make Capitol Hill a cutting edge special hub that all our patients can count on. We want a facility that is welcoming.”
Kaiser says it plans to maintain its healthcare services throughout the overhaul of its campus. The company is collaborating with the City of Seattle and residents of Capitol Hill to develop plans for the renovation. A 12-member Standing Advisory Committee was formed last month. Its job will be to review design proposals, make recommendations and monitor compliance with the master plan.
“[Kaiser’s] intent is to create something positive for the community,” said Maureen Sheehan, Major Institutions and Schools Coordinator for the City of Seattle. “It’s less about what’s going on in the walls. It’s about how you pass through the campus, how you interact with it. Do you like to walk your dog through the campus? Do you wait for the bus there? How can the institution be a good neighbor?”
The committee—which has 12 voting members, one of which is a non-management representative from Kaiser who is there to speak to the institution’s employee experience—is designed to reflect the community and its wishes. It’s made up of a variety of individuals whose diversity of experiences will hopefully reflect the neighborhood. The members include a resident physician at the University of Washington, a 40-year Capitol Hill resident and parents from a couple of young families, among others. According to Sheehan, about half of the committee members live within a block of the facility.
“Our intent is to make the committee representative of the community,” she said. “We’re looking for a diverse experience. The institution is trying to be open and transparent and share the information.”
The Washington collective, Group Health, had employed around 360 primary care providers and 585 specialty physicians in the Puget Sound and Spokane areas as of summer 2016. Kaiser Permanente announced its plans to acquire Group Health in December 2015, and now serves more than 674,000 members in Washington.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, the $60 billion company was founded in 1945 and remains one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans, serving more than 11.3 members. As of 2017, Kaiser operates in eight states and is the largest managed care organization in the United States.
The communities around 15th Ave E have been preparing for a wave of development and change coming to the street — including the Kaiser Permanente project. In May, the neighborhood organized a design workshop to discuss the “charming, safe, green, and clean” attributes of the area residents and local businesses would like to see maintained and grown. Capitol Hill’s new design guidelines, meanwhile, won’t guide the coming project at Kaiser Permanente — its campus is subject to its own “major institution master plan” like the guidelines that frame Seattle Central or Seattle University development.
Leading up to the Standing Advisory Committee’s first meeting this fall, community members are encouraged to provide comments and feedback.
“We’re really looking at making it a neighborhood committee” Sheehan said. “The more people we can have attending meetings and being involved early, the better.”
You can learn more about the committee or sign up for updates on future meetings at seattle.gov.
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