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Aspen Valley Hospital addition taking shape

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – The $76.4 million expansion of Aspen Valley Hospital remains a maze of steel frames, exposed conduit, duct work and dust, but it’s possible to walk the halls of the new space, provided one has a hard hat, nimble feet and a guide who understands what is taking shape.

The project, which broke ground in December 2010, is on budget and on schedule, according to hospital CEO David Ressler. What looks to passersby like a giant box wrapped in plastic with a crane swinging overhead will be a mostly functional building before the year is out.

Work on the decks of a three-level parking structure – currently the site of exposed concrete walls and scaffolding – will begin this spring. The parking garage is slated for completion by Aug. 1, according to Shawn Morrison, superintendent with general contractor Haselden Construction.

By early October, a new hospital entrance, a floor of new patient rooms, medical office space on the top floor and a new cafeteria should be ready for use, he said.

A mild early winter has helped the project along, according to Morrison.

“The weather wasn’t the best for skiing, but it was certainly great for us,” he said.

At present, the construction site is clanging with activity, with anywhere from 100 to 120 workers assembling the various components of the 62,000-square-foot addition. Buried within the site, red brick masonry is already advancing up what will be an exposed wall. Gaping openings, covered in plastic, will boast large, airy windows when the structure is finished.

But, at the end of one corridor, a sole patient room will soon leave nothing to the imagination. The room will be finished far in advance of the rest of the building to give the hospital staff yet another look at how the new rooms will function.

“That way, we as contractors know what level to bring everything to, and the owners know what they get at the end of it,” Morrison said.

It will be the second look at a finished room for the medical and nursing staff, according to Ressler. Mock-up rooms, replete with furniture, were created in an empty warehouse in Carbondale in the early stages just to make sure every detail was right.

“It’s one thing to look at the drawings. It’s another to bring in a gurney and make sure you can make the corner,” said hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche. “It’s too important to have any errors.”

At the existing hospital, it is business as usual – sort of. The hospital’s private rooms, located along the east wall, aren’t in use because of the construction noise going on next to them. At nearby Whitcomb Terrace, an assisted-living facility operated by the hospital, rents have been reduced 20 percent this year in consideration of the construction impacts.

What was formerly a 25-bed hospital is now a 23-bed facility, given the loss of the private rooms affected by the project. All of the rooms are now shared rooms – two patients per room – when the hospital is busy. In a pinch, some female surgical patients get a bed in the obstetrics postpartum area.

When the expansion is done, the hospital will have 36 patient rooms (25 available for use initially), all of them private, in keeping with present-day expectations for hospital facilities.

The new rooms are “appropriately sized,” Ressler said, countering suggestions that Aspen is building a hospital that’s over the top. “They’re not enormous.”

The expansion is actually Phase 2 of a four-phase plan for the hospital. Phase 1 was completed with construction of a new obstetrics unit. Phase 2 is divvied into four parts, though most of the addition will be finished this year.

Phase 2 also includes temporary relocation of the intensive-care unit into the addition while that area is rebuilt within the existing hospital. Cardiac rehabilitation and physical therapy will move to the new addition.

Still to come this year is the construction of 18 housing units, including studio and one-bedroom apartments, to be built on the hospital’s 19-acre campus. They will be built off-site and then assembled on the grounds. Many of the units will go to the hospital’s seasonal staff, according to Ressler.

Of the four-phase project, Phase 2 is by far the largest. When all of the phases are done, the existing one-story building, finished in 1977, will be expanded outward as well as upward to two stories. The hospital will go from about 70,000 square feet to about 210,000 square feet, not including a separate, 80,000-square-foot parking garage.

Voters in 2010 approved borrowing $50 million to help fund Phase 2. The hospital’s cash reserves and philanthropic contributions are covering the rest.

janet@aspentimes.com


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