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Allina submits site plan for new clinic

This concept image shows what the front of the new clinic will look like. Image courtesy of the City of Hastings

Allina Health’s new clinic is just about ready for construction. On Monday, Aug. 22, the Hastings Planning Commission reviewed the rezoning and site plan for the new project and recommended approval with a unanimous vote. The site plan and rezoning request will next be heard by the city council, with a final vote expected at the Sept. 19 meeting.

The project is one that’s been in the works at Allina for about three years. Allina has purchased 5.5 acres of land on the west edge of Hastings from the Conzemius Dairy Farm, and in 2015, the city annexed the site into city limits. The plan calls for construction of a two-story, 50,000-square-foot medical office building at the northwest corner of North Frontage Road and the future Dakota Summit Drive (located just west of Wal-Mart’s

parking lot).

The new clinic would replace Allina’s existing First Street Clinic, moving primary care providers to the new site. Specialty care providers will remain at the Nininger Clinic, and Regina Hospital will also remain at its current location.

The new building will be larger than the First Street Clinic, with 100 exam rooms as well as additional conference rooms and space for new programs, said Becky McKuras, clinic manager.

“What we have allows for some growth,” McKuras told planning commissioners.

The new clinic allows room for Allina to add three or four new providers, she said, with two to three rooms available for each provider and space for additional care teams to work with patients. Other added space, she explained, is intended to expand the clinic’s programs and educational activities, as well as new services, such as acupuncture.

The site would have a large parking lot with three vehicle accesses, one on North Frontage Road, which will be extended to the west edge of the site, and two on the future Dakota Summit Drive, which is currently a short road linking North Frontage Road to Highway 55. Pedestrian access and trail extensions are also included in the plans.

The building itself is set to be built of brick and glass, with more landscaping around the site than the city requires.

Along with the construction of the site itself, development includes the extension of West Fourth Street, North Frontage Road and Dakota Summit Drive.

A traffic impact study showed that the facility would generate about 1,800 new trips on an average weekday and that the intersection in the area would operate acceptably with the additional traffic.

The site will be owned and developed by Mortenson Construction and leased to Allina. It is proposed to be rezoned as PI (public institution), the same as the current Allina Health campus, Dakota County Government Center and local schools.

Parking

During the commissioners’ review of the plans, one thing stood out: parking. Much of the 5.5 acre site is dedicated to parking – 346 spaces worth.

“I was just struck with this sea of pavement,” said commissioner Mitch Johnson, although he acknowledged that the extensive parking was justifiable.

The parking lots actually exceed the city’s usual limit. Community Development Director John Hinzman explained at the meeting that, for general office sites, city code specifies a minimum number of parking spaces based on the size of the office – one space per 300 square feet. It also stipulates that total parking cannot exceed the minimum requirements by more than 20 percent. By that calculation, the Allina clinic would be limited to 201 spaces, well below what’s being proposed.

However, Allina provided examples from other clinic sites to justify the larger lot. Hinzman explained that the plan allows one space for each full-time employee (140 spaces) and two spaces for each exam room (200 spaces). Allina is proposing the city allow up to 360 parking spaces on the site, with 346 spaces proposed to be built.

Johnson said the concept of having a new massive parking lot built right next to another massive parking lot (Wal-Mart’s) seems “ludicrous,” but Jeremy Jacobs, development executive with Mortenson Construction, explained why the large lot is necessary.

Because the site is for medical use, he said, immediate access is paramount. While retail shoppers who encounter a full parking lot can either park farther away or wait for a space to open, it’s a problem if medical patients don’t have a place to park when trying to see a physician. Another issue is that one patient – a child, for example – could have multiple people arriving in multiple vehicles to accompany them.

“We need a generously sized parking lot,” Jacobs said.

Johnson agreed, and commissioner Bryan Alpaugh noted that the plan does have at least one redeeming quality to make up for the expanse of pavement.

“At least this has a nice landscaping plan to go with it,” Alpaugh said.

Incurring public cost?

Another concern commissioners raised had to do with the location of the clinic and the potential that it would cause patients and potentially the city to incur higher costs due to ambulance trips.

Commissioner Don Slaten pointed to Allina’s current campus, where both clinics are within walking distance of the hospital. He questioned what would happen when patients go to the clinic with a condition that needs to be treated in the emergency room and if that would impose new ambulance costs on patients. And, he added, since the city operates the local ambulance service, he questioned if an increase in transport calls would necessitate the purchase of another city ambulance.

McKuras said that, while some conditions would warrant an ambulance transport to the Hastings hospital, Allina is hoping to increase education and get patients to the right place the first time.

Allina President Tom Thompson noted that, even with Allina’s current campus, ambulance trips from one facility to the other aren’t necessarily ruled out.

“The best practice would be to call the ambulance even if it’s just across the street,” he said.

Commissioner Noah Wallace agreed that the ambulance issue is a valid point but also pointed to the benefits the new facility will bring to Hastings.

“Having a facility with that many exam rooms is also something to consider,” he said.

Next steps

With the planning commission’s recommendation for approval, the site plan and rezoning request next will go before the city council on Sept. 6, when the council will schedule a public hearing. A public hearing and the council’s final vote is expected on Sept. 19.

Jacobs said that, on the current timeline, the project is expected to start construction in early October. The facility is expected to be ready for occupancy in the later part of next year.

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