Thursday, August 27, 2015

Virtua proposes $1 billion campus in Westampton NJ

Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer

Virtua Health is proposing a $1 billion hospital complex on a 110-acre farm that the South Jersey nonprofit acquired in Westampton Township more than a year ago. The project would include a nine-story hospital that would replace the four-floor Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly, three miles away in Burlington County.

Nine other buildings, including surgical and rehabilitation centers and a hospice and assisted living complex, would be constructed on the new campus under a development plan that Virtua will unveil next Wednesday before the township's Land Development Board.

The 108-page plan Virtua recently submitted to the board outlines a 20-year project that calls for the construction of up to two million square feet of space and nearly 3,000 parking spaces. An anticipated 3,400 employees would work on the campus on the former Hogan Farm, between Burlington-Mount Holly Road (Route 541) and Woodlane Road (Route 630), not far from I-295 and the Burlington County Library and Amphitheater.

"The construction of a world-class medical campus" in Westampton is needed because the existing hospital, built in 1926, is outdated, and its site in Mount Holly cannot accommodate expansion, the plans say.

Westampton Mayor Carolyn Chang said officials would examine the plans closely in coming weeks to make sure they are "appropriate" and do not create "any major traffic issues" in that developing part of the township.
The board recently amended its master plan to allow a hospital and a town center with mixed business and residential use to be constructed in that location.

The proposed medical complex is "great for economic development in Westampton," said Chang, who sits on the Land Development Board. "I believe it will bring additional business to Westampton that will help to stabilize our property taxes."

Virtua, which currently operates three hospitals in South Jersey and has its headquarters in Marlton, anticipates that the new medical campus will generate about $2.3 million in property tax revenues each year. Once approvals are obtained, Virtua expects to begin construction in 2019 and have the hospital built as early as 2022. The project would be built in two phases.

There are no plans yet for the existing hospital, but Virtua says it will consult with township officials and private enterprises to find a new use for the buildings and the complex's 17-acre property.

"Virtua continues to examine the feasibility of developing a replacement hospital on a new campus in Westampton to best meet the needs of the residents of Burlington County and the surrounding areas. As we move forward, the determining factors will be the future of the health-care environment and the economy. At present, there are no specific plans for the current campus in Mount Holly," a spokesperson said in a statement.

While the current hospital has semiprivate rooms, private rooms are becoming the standard, the plans state. The Mount Holly hospital has had seven additions, the most recent in 2013.

Virtua also said it will add features that it is unable to provide in Mount Holly. Plans include a helipad for emergency air transport to the hospital.

The new campus will help "meet the demand for a broad spectrum of quality health-care services," the plans say.

The board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the municipal building, 710 Rancocas Rd.

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