Design details debut for Issaquah Highlands hospital

October 27, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Provided by Studio 216 for CollinsWoerman

Provided by Studio 216 for CollinsWoerman

Planners said the Swedish Medical Center campus under construction in the Issaquah Highlands would serve as a community hub, with a lush courtyard and free Wi-Fi to lure visitors. City and project planners unveiled new details Oct. 20 about the hospital, the first major employer to take root in the highlands.

The site development permit for the project went before the Urban Village Development Commission last week. Commissioners raised questions about how ambulances would reach the site and how years of construction would affect highlands residents. The campus, scheduled to open in phases in 2011 and 2012, will become the first new hospital in King County to open in 25 years.

Seattle architecture firm CollinsWoerman designed the hospital with a pair of wings extending south from a medical office building. The office complex will face Northeast Blakely Drive; the wings will contain patient beds. Lucy Sloman, a planning consultant with the city Major Development Review Team, said the facility would total 582,000 square feet. The buildings will be between 80 and 85 feet tall at the highest points.Architect James Walker said the hospital design incorporates visual cues from grasses and trees at the highlands site. A soaring atrium capped with a sloped roof will link the components and serve as the main entryway.

“We see it as a very dramatic space and very much a unifying kind of nexus to the whole project, where both the hospital looks into this space and the medical office building,” Walker said.

Plans illustrate a soaring atrium lined with shops and services, such as a daycare center, to serve as a gathering place for hospital workers, patients and visitors.

“The notion is that, as you come into the commons, both off of Blakely or from the main entrance, there’s a very strong sense, as you see the daylight come spilling in from the south-facing courtyard into the commons, that there’s some special world out there,” Walker said.

Brumbaugh & Associates, a Seattle landscape architecture firm, planned a lush courtyard for the space surrounded by the hospital wings and the office complex, landscape architect Kristen Lundquist said.

The hospital courtyard will be a place “where the landscape plays quite a role in terms of providing respite for staff, patients and visitors, family members,” Lundquist said.

Walker said design touches, such as landscaping on lower-level roofs, as well as open staircases inside the building, were under discussion.

A public trail cuts through the south end of the hospital site. Architects said the trail would be maintained as part of the project development.

City planners attached 79 conditions to the permit, related to everything from what type of plants should be used for landscaping to how to monitor underground fuel storage tanks beneath the site. Hospital planners must also build a connector from Northeast Blakely Drive sidewalk to the public trail.

A week before the groundbreaking ceremony, City Council members set aside concerns about contamination to the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer — a key source of drinking water — and approved the underground tanks to power emergency generators at the hospital.

As a condition for development, hospital executives must complete a study to determine whether soils are likely to corrode underground tanks or pipes.

Crews began excavation work at the site in mid-August. Gov. Chris Gregoire, Mayor Ava Frisinger and hospital executives gathered Oct. 12 for a groundbreaking ceremony against a backdrop of construction equipment.

Though the campus will create more than 1,000 jobs by the time construction wraps in 2012, and draw patients from Issaquah and surrounding areas, hospital architects and executives said the facility would dovetail with the neighborhood. Planners expect to draw patients from seven ZIP codes.

Officials asked what type of signage would be allowed for the hospital. City regulations allow a freestanding sign capped at 10 feet, as well as a smaller secondary sign.

“It’s not like the Ikea sign down in Renton,” Sloman said.

Commissioner Stefanie Preston asked about the route ambulances would use to reach the hospital emergency room. Planners said emergency vehicles would use Seventh Avenue Northeast and then a service road to reach the ER, and then exit the hospital onto Eighth Avenue Northeast.

The construction site, 18 acres perched above Interstate 90 with views of Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains, will be abuzz until the last phase opens in 2012.

“They may have the buildings permitted with different permits, so they can get certificates of occupancy, they may even complete the interior over many years, but the outside of the building will be essentially built in one continuous build as they’re planning it right now,” Sloman said.

Hospital Senior Project Manager Susan Gillespie said the hospital would work with Metro to determine how to serve the hospital. Planners said a circulator bus to run between the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride and the hospital campus is a possibility.

Commissioners asked whether wireless Web access would be a standard feature at the facility at the state-of-the-art hospital. During the Oct. 12 groundbreaking, executives touted tech-savvy features, such as electronic medical records.

“We would be remiss if we created a building of this size without being very technology-savvy, especially in this area,” Gillespie said. “We plan to have Wi-Fi access everywhere. We’re planning patient entertainment systems for folks that are inpatients that will provide Wi-Fi both to their guests and to the patient. And then, we will also have Wi-Fi throughout all of the more public spaces, trying to make that a more welcoming place.”

Commission Chairman Geoffrey Walker said the hospital “sounds like it could be a great neighbor to the highlands.”

Commissioners will meet again Nov. 3 for a public hearing related to the site development permit.

Dr. John Milne, a member of the Urban Village Development Commission, had to recuse himself from the Oct. 20 and Nov. 3 meetings. Milne is the medical director for strategic development at Swedish Medical Center and a physician at the existing Issaquah emergency room.

Because he had recused himself, Milne was not allowed to attend the meeting. Other commissioners are not allowed to discuss the hospital issue with Milne until the board reaches a decision.

Get Involved

Swedish Medical Center site development permit public hearing

Urban Village Development Commission

7 p.m. Nov. 3

Council Chambers

City Hall South,

135 E. Sunset Way

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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