- February 16, 2015
The diagnosis for the future of Sarasota Memorial Hospital's latest satellite clinic isn’t life-threatening.
But SMH’s sixth urgent care center on St. Armands Circle has hit four significant construction speed bumps that translate to a longer wait time before the new clinic opens.
The city of Sarasota’s Board of Adjustment denied four variance requests May 27 that SMH sought for a new urgent care center building planned for 500 Ringling Blvd., where the former St. Armands Medical Center and a Re/Max Platinum Realty office once were located.
Specifically, the board denied SMH variances for building coverage footprint, the number of parking spaces, the location of parking spaces and landscape width.
The biggest hurdles for SMH to overcome are its building footprint and parking space problems.
The hospital asked to increase its current building footprint from 30% to 38% as part of a new tear-down and rebuild project. The hospital says the existing building, which is now vacant, isn’t suitable for its new facility.
It also asked for a variance to reduce parking spaces from the 39 spots that city guidelines require to 24 spaces, explaining that a traffic study showed that the lower number is “more than adequate to accommodate staff and peak patient volumes.”
SMH also asked for four parking spaces in front of the building on South Adams Street that would be reserved for employees and small delivery trucks. A landscape width reduction was also requested to accommodate a drive aisle.
All of the variance requests were denied.
St. Armands Resident Association board member Kevin Bales expressed “extreme disappointment” at a recent Coalition of City Neighborhoods Association meeting with the setback, noting that the zoning board spent a lot of time discussing the business model for the project instead of the variances before them.
“The board’s biggest issue is parking and that’s a shame,” Bales said. “It seems we continue to let longstanding issues like parking stand in the way of convenient, high quality urgent care services on the barrier islands.”
The variance denials mean the timeline for a new center is delayed.
“While the decision was an unexpected setback, we remain committed to the project and are working with our architect and engineers on several modifications to address the board's concerns,” SMH spokeswoman Kim Savage said.
Savage said there isn’t yet a revised timetable for a center that once had a timetable for an opening in late 2015 or 2016.
“Once the new drawings and planning documents are complete, we will resubmit them to the city for appropriate permits and approvals, hopefully by late summer,” Savage said. “Meanwhile, we are grateful for the overwhelmingly positive community support and to the many neighborhood, merchant and organization representatives who attended our public workshops and variance hearing and sent letters of support for our urgent care center plans.”
Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, was disappointed to hear about the variance setbacks Monday but pledged continued Circle support for the future center.
“Everybody is open and receptive to them opening on the Circle,” Corrigan said. “The hospital continues to work with everyone, and we look forward to their future presence on the Circle.”
For Longboat Key, the news means a longer wait for closer urgent care. The Longboat Key Foundation continues to pursue a medical facility for the island.
The Key has been without a family practice or urgent care provider since May 2014, when Dr. Pamela Letts retired and closed her Centre Shops Family Practice and Urgent Care.
In December 2014, SMH approved the $3.6 million purchase of Circle property that will eventually become its sixth satellite center. The hospital has considered a location in the Circle for six years.
SMH estimates a St. Armands facility could treat at least 9,000 patients annually.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].