Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 21
 
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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UMCP Seeks New Buyers for Hospital Site

Dilshanie Perera

With the University Medical Center of Princeton poised to move from its present location on Witherspoon Street to its new medical campus along Route One in early 2012, a new request for proposals (RFP) is being issued for plans for the old hospital site because Philadelphia-based real estate investment firm Lubert-Adler recently backed out of the $55 million purchase of the current medical center.

Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS) President and CEO Barry Rabner said that when they contacted the firm about “the next steps in our work with them,” Lubert-Adler notified the medical center that they did not want to pursue the transaction. Further reasons were not given.

“The good news has been — since it was announced publicly — we have been contacted by a significant number of interested parties, and we’re meeting with them,” Mr. Rabner reported.

When PHCS first decided to relocate, they issued an RFP for potential redevelopment of the 5.6-acre parcel of land that the HealthCare System currently occupies. Mr. Rabner said that the organization is contacting those who originally submitted proposals to gauge whether they might still be interested. Additionally, “we’re meeting with new parties, we’re organizing materials to go out to others, and we’re updating what we first put in the RFP,” he remarked.

The healthcare system is looking for a purchaser and developer who “understand how [the site] has been rezoned” and who “wish to utilize the site as it is zoned,” Mr. Rabner noted, adding that “a lot of effort was put into establishing the new zoning by the Township, Borough, and community in general.”

While it is too soon to know whether most of the buildings on the current hospital site will be incorporated into the new designs, Mr. Rabner suggested that “the zoning assumed that much of the [main] building would be reused.” More public open space is another key design element that PHCS would like to see remain in new site plans.

The initial plans proposed by Lubert-Adler would have utilized the mixed residential, retail, and office zoning of that tract of land, and would have accommodated 280 residential units, with retail at street level.

Lubert-Adler’s decision not to purchase the current medical campus does not affect the financing of the new hospital. With the assistance of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority, PHCS was able to secure $355 million in financing, which was not contingent on the sale of the Witherspoon Street site. Once it is sold, the monies obtained from that will go toward the new hospital.

Of the $355 million, $180 million consists of tax exempt, variable rate demand bonds supported by letters of credit from TD Bank and the Bank of America. The remaining $175 million comes from direct bank loans with interest rates of less than three percent from Wells Fargo/Wachovia Bank and JP Morgan Chase. The total cost of the new hospital construction in Plainsboro is $442 million, $115 million of which will be supported by donors via the “Design for Healing” capital campaign. Fundraising for the campaign is 82 percent complete to date.

On budget and on time, the new hospital currently has 300 people working on construction, with plans to scale it up to 500 people in the near future. With the process going “remarkably well,” Mr. Rabner said that the new Merwick, a rehabilitation hospital and nursing home facility currently located on Bayard Lane, is slated to open at the new medical campus site this September.

Training for medical center staff will begin at the current site in a few days, where a patient room designed exactly like those that will be found at the new hospital has been constructed. The process endeavors to ensure that there is no lag time for staff familiarizing themselves with the new space.

The new hospital, known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, will occupy 600,000 square feet of space on 50 acres within a 171-acre healthcare campus between Route One, Scudders Mill Road, and the Millstone River. The new site is 2.5 miles from the hospital’s current location.

Other News

In other news, UMCP recently announced that 33 full-time and 24 part-time positions would be eliminated, with an additional 23 positions left vacant. The motivation behind the 57 layoffs was characterized as a desire to increase the efficiency of the hospital’s functioning. The cuts do not include nurses or doctors.

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