See renderings for LMH’s nearly $100M west Lawrence project, complete with rooftop terrace and amphitheater

One of the larger projects ever for west Lawrence is starting to come together. Board members for Lawrence Memorial Hospital on Wednesday approved a new set of designs for a nearly $100 million medical outpatient building near Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence.

“We wanted something that was sophisticated but not ostentatious, something striking but not weird,” LMH President and CEO Russ Johnson told the board. “We think the community will be really proud of this building, but they won’t think that the hospital threw crazy money at this building and are wasting our dollars.”

I could break out my highly technical architectural terms — like shiny, glassy and pointy — but it would be easier if you just look at the renderings, which were put together by Lenexa-based Pulse Design Group.

As a reminder, the building will be near the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. If you are familiar with the new KU Tennis Center at Rock Chalk Park, it will be on the opposite side of the street and a bit west of the Tennis Center.

A few things stand out from the renderings. Several of the renderings show people on the roof of the building. Don’t become alarmed. They are supposed to be there. The design includes a rooftop terrace.

One rendering shows what looks to be people who are either stretching or perhaps re-creating scenes from “The Karate Kid.” Either way there will be will be room to sit and watch. The area is a combination amphitheater and therapy garden.

LMH officials told the board that the topography of the land was going to require a retaining wall for the area. Instead of a traditional retaining wall, architects suggested a stair-step approach that allows for amphitheater-type of seating. The area can be used for a variety of presentations and gatherings, hospital leaders said.

As for the therapy garden, think about all those exercises that physical therapists have you go through when you are rehabilitating a hip or a knee or some other type of injury. Physical therapy will be a big part of the services offered at the new medical center. Hospital leaders believe some patients will appreciate the opportunity to do some of the exercises outside on nice days. (Ok, but tell the guy in the back row of the amphitheater to avert his gaze while I’m doing Downward Dog.)

Importantly, though, the therapy garden will be open to everyone, including employees and the general public. It will include a walking path that likely will have some fitness challenge stations along its way. The path also will be connected to the broader trail system the city has built as part of the Rock Chalk Park Development.

The hospital, though, still needs to get city approval for the entire project. The development has a key hearing at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on May 23. Planning commissioners are being asked to approve the plat for the project. The city’s planning staff is recommending approval of the plat, now that some issues related to traffic counts for the area have been resolved. Previously there was debate about how much traffic the medical office building would create. The city and LMH still don’t agree on the numbers, but the city engineer has said he’s confident the center won’t generate enough traffic that the adjacent street network needs to be improved, according to a city memo on the topic.

The hospital hopes to break ground on the project in June or July, which would put it on track to open in 2020.

As we’ve reported, the medical office building is slated to include:

• An enlarged Lawrence Surgery Center to conduct outpatient surgery procedures.

• An “orthopedic center of excellence” that will be run by the staff of OrthoKansas, which has been purchased by LMH.

• An expanded LMH Breast Center, including new clinical space.

• An LMH Therapy practice, which will focus on sports rehabilitation services.

• Doctor’s offices for the Internal Medicine Group.

• Doctor’s offices for the Mt. Oread Family Practice group.

• Office for Plastic Surgery Specialists of Lawrence.

• Medical office space that LMH will lease to a variety of specialty physicians.

• A retail pharmacy that will be operated by a third party. LMH hasn’t yet announced a partner for the pharmacy.

• A food court and rooftop garden to accommodate the more than 1,000 patients and staff who are expected to be on the site daily.

The new facility won’t offer any inpatient services that would require an overnight stay. All inpatient services will continue to be done at LMH’s hospital at Third and Maine streets.


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