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St. Luke’s unveils hospital plans

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    The proposed St. Luke’s hospital will be located off Harrity Road in Franklin Township. GRAPHIC BY DAVID W. ROWE/TIMES NEWS

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    Representatives from St. Luke’s University Health Network met with the Franklin Township Planning Commission Thursday night. From left to right, Matt Neeb, the chairman of the planning commission, and Stephen Everett, secretary of the planning commission, listen to Rocco Caracciolo, a division manager at the engineering firm Pennoni Associates in Bethlehem, explain the plans for the new hospital sited for Harrity Road. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS

Published August 10. 2018 01:07PM

The Franklin Township Planning Commission met with representatives from St. Luke’s University Health Network Thursday night to discuss preliminary final plans for the new hospital slated to be built along Harrity Road near Route 209.

Matt Neeb, chairman of the Franklin Township Planning Commission, said no vote was taken on the plans, because comments from the township engineer were not available, as well as those from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Carbon County Conservation District.

“They started the formal process for land development,” Neeb said.

Robert Martin, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for St. Luke’s, said the sketch plan shown at the meeting was an opportunity to introduce the health network’s plan to the commission.

“We like to work with the community to address any concerns,” he said. This is the fifth hospital to be built by St. Luke’s.

“We really believe it’s a great thing for the community,” Martin said.

He thinks the new hospital may draw more people back to health care in the area, and may attract additional businesses, which is something St. Luke’s has seen occur at its other locations.

As far as what St. Luke’s has planned for the former Blue Mountain Health System’s hospitals in Palmerton and Lehighton, which it acquired in late 2017, Martin told the planning commission he expects the Gnaden Huetten Campus to continue to be the main location for behavioral health care. Beyond that, specific plans are still in the works.

“The beauty of this is it is equitable to both hospitals,” he said about the location of the new hospital on Harrity Road.

The plans proposed to the planning commission are nearly identical to St. Luke’s Monroe Campus in Stroudsburg and Anderson Campus in Easton.

The hospital will be 50 feet tall and encompass 130,000 square feet on a more than 75-acre lot. It will begin with 40 bedrooms and eventually have 80. St. Luke’s expects to employ 200 people at the new facility to start. The lot will have 535 parking spots.

“You don’t want to have to drive around looking for a parking spot,” said Rocco Caracciolo, a division manager at the engineering firm Pennoni Associates in Bethlehem. “They’re building a hospital to be here 100 years. St. Luke’s will be here. They maintain their properties.”

The new hospital will also include an emergency room and helipad to airlift trauma patients when necessary to its main hospital in Bethlehem. The helicopter will be used only for dire situations, Caracciolo said.

The plans include widening Harrity Road to include a left-hand turning lane, he said. Concerns about increased traffic were brought up by both the commissioners and a resident who lives along Reber Street.

“I’m trying to play devil’s advocate, it’s a good project,” Neeb said.

“It’s important to St. Luke’s to get people in and out of there safely,” said Caracciolo.

Franklin Township resident David thor Straten-Mohr thinks the increased traffic will put pressure on the intersection near Marzens.

“They did a nice job over at Bartonsville,” he said. A former Penn State instructor in community development courses, Straten-Mohr said he’s just looking at the project from all sides.

“The county needs a good hospital,” he said. “There’s so much new technology they need to have in the rooms that it wouldn’t be worth it to try to fix up the old hospitals.”

“It’s a service that’s needed,” said Rod Mann, vice chair of the Franklin Township Planning Commission.

“And maybe more job creations with this size of hospital,” Neeb added.

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