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Proposed Ellis Hospital parking garage in Schenectady would create green space, ease access

Proposed Ellis Hospital parking garage in Schenectady would create green space, ease access

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SCHENECTADY — A new eight-floor parking structure proposed by Ellis Medicine along Nott and Ulster streets would not only increase parking capacity, but eliminate long-standing confusion that has existed on campus for years, hospital officials said during a virtual community meeting Tuesday.

The hospital is seeking to demolish its four-level, 700-spot parking garage that was constructed more than 40 years ago to make way for an eight-floor structure that would accommodate up to 1,200 vehicles. The hospital has outgrown the current structure, which requires thousands in annual maintenance costs annually.

Plans for the new structure will be reviewed by the city’s Planning Commission on Feb. 16.

But prior to meeting with the commission, a number of hospital officials, including President and CEO Paul Milton, joined members of the structure’s design team to update the community on the proposed plans, answer any questions and gather additional input on the plans.

“Time is up on the current garage on Nott Street. It’s old,” Milton said. “With our commitment and our mission of what we do, we need to make sure we have good access and a safe way for everybody to approach the hospital.”

Around a dozen residents attended the meeting, most of whom remained silent during a Q&A portion. Those who did speak seemed to approve of the proposal and were mainly concerned about the project’s timeline and how it might impact local traffic.

The new structure, expected to cost $30 million, will have the same facade as the hospital’s Rosa Road parking garage and would be located in the same area as the existing structure.

But the new garage would have a reduced footprint by about 45 feet in order to ensure remnants of the current structure are fully removed from the site. The narrower structure will create room for additional green space along Ulster Street that would spruce up the area and help reduce stormwater runoff, according to David Vander Wal, senior vice president of Walker Consultants, an engineering firm specializing in parking structures.

The structure would be precast off-site using concrete and will stand between six and seven stories once fully assembled. Assembly will be completed in phases using a crane, according to Vander Wal.

Construction plan

The goal is to begin tearing down the existing structure some time this summer after gaining the necessary approvals and securing funding for the project. Ellis has received a $2 million state grant for the project and expects saving on maintenance fees will help offset the remaining costs.

Proposed Ellis Hospital parking garage in Schenectady would create green space, ease access

Construction is expected to last around 16 months. The hospital has said savings on maintenance costs and shuttle services will offset the remaining costs for the project.

Currently, hospital employees must utilize a shuttle service to get to work due to a lack of parking on-site. The hospital is in the process of securing additional parking for when construction begins, but plans currently call for expanding the use of Hillside Avenue for employee parking and offering an enhanced valet service for patients and visitors, according to Mark Mesick, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

An estimated 20 trucks would pass through Ulster Street each day during assembly, the equivalent of about three trucks per hour during an eight-hour workday. The road will remain open during construction.

“Once they have 80% of the pieces fabricated, they’ll start erecting the precast,” Vander Wal said. “It will go from a hole in the ground with footings to looking like it’s a pretty complete building in about two to three months.”

Milton said hospital administration is working closely with the Schenectady City School District in order to ensure minimal disruptions for students at Oneida Middle School, which sits directly across the street from the proposed construction site.

“Access and safety is very important to us. We’re very sensitive to being next door to the school here with kids running around,” he said. “We’re working with the school system on this project to make sure it is safe going forward.”

Karen Corona, a spokeswoman for the school district, confirmed the hospital has been in contact.

The new structure will feature three tunnels, including an exit and entrance along Ulster Street and an entryway on Nott Street.

The Nott Street entrance would be elevated, putting the first floor of the structure on the same level as the hospital, helping to eliminate longstanding confusion within the structure, according to Daria Mallin, president of Envision Architect, an Albany-based design firm working on the project.

“We are lifting the ground up … to let you enter at the same grade relatively to A1, the first floor of the hospital, to get that continuity, to again lessen the stress of the experience of arriving on campus,” she said.

Milton said the hospital will work to notify the community of any changes once the project gains the necessary approvals and plans regarding parking and construction are finalized.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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