Swedish wants to extend facilities, development agreement

May 7, 2013

By Peter Clark

Swedish executives met with the City Council Land & Shore Committee on April 9 to discuss potential future expansion of their current Issaquah Highlands site.

Specifically, they asked to directly manage their own titled site from the city instead of going through developer Port Blakely, and for an extension on their development agreement, from 2013 to 2017. The extension would give hospital leaders time to decide how to expand and when.

A year after opening, the hospital has met with a greater amount of success than anticipated and the group that met with city leaders wanted to discuss possible avenues to capitalize on that performance.

“Admission activity continues to run ahead of projection,” Highlands Swedish board of directors member Chuck Lytle said in a presentation to the committee. “Growth was indeed a bit of a surprise.”

Recently, Swedish/Providence Hospital entered into a purchase contract with Port Blakely to acquire an additional 10.4 acres of land. However, due to the unpredictable future of healthcare caused by the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect Oct. 1, Swedish executives said at the meeting that they wish to extend the development agreement with the city to more carefully approach additional buildout of services and facilities.

City Department of Economic Development Director Keith Niven said he saw the opportunity as a good one for Issaquah. Even though the precise details are still undetermined, he said that the city’s approval would help with the future of healthcare in the area.

“They’re concerned about moving too quickly before they’re sure about what their model will be,” Niven said in a separate interview about the hospital’s growth. He spoke in favor of the expanded timeline. “They’re worried that the absorption of the 500 square feet they are buying from Port Blakely might take longer than five years.”

One hurdle that was mentioned in the committee meeting was that Swedish/Providence wished to have an accelerated decision from the City Council regarding the extension. Because of the expiration of the city’s current development agreement, and Port Blakely’s decision to sell off its holdings in the highlands, Swedish/Providence considers time of the essence. They asked for the extension by Labor Day.

“Is that possible with the steps that we go through with the community and everything?” Council President Fred Butler asked with concern about the short timeline requested by the parties. “I’ve been around long enough to know that if you start cutting corners, you run the risk creating controversy that you wouldn’t have if you had taken the time.”

Niven agreed that the short window complicated the process, but said he was confident that the city could fulfill the request.

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