December 5, 2021

Hospital outlines plan for $10.6M cancer center

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center Logo

Officials from Guthrie Cortland Medical Center gave residents a glimpse Tuesday of its plans to develop a $10.6 million cancer treatment center.

If state and city approvals are obtained as expected, the hospital would break ground on the new nearly 11,000-square-foot building in the spring, said Jennifer Yartym, the hospital’s president since Sept. 9.

Officials plan to put the building on hospital-owned land at the northeast corner of Loope and West Main streets. Two houses at that location, which are also owned by the hospital, would have to be demolished.

This proposal is awaiting approval from the state Department of Health, but would also require the acceptance of the city planning commission, according to Denise Wrinn, the hospital’s vice president of finance. The hospital hopes to present the project to the planning commission at its Dec. 23 meeting, she said.

The hospital plan also calls for a major change to the two parking lots to the west and north of the hospital: They would be connected together by incorporating half a block of Alvena Avenue into the hospital campus. This would require help from the city, which would have to deed over that portion of the street to the hospital, Wrinn said. But this is not unprecedented, she said: The former John Street was so absorbed in 1988; it used to be where the western parking lot is now.

The new parking lot plan would have about 413 parking spots -— slightly more than the roughly 400 that the lots have currently. But the plan would change the layout and dimensions of the parking spots to be in line with current city code and introduce areas of green space inside the lots and around the perimeters. There would be a combined entrance and exit on West Main Street as well as another combined entrance and exit from Homer Avenue, or where Alvena Avenue is currently.

The half-circle driveway at the main entrance to the hospital would be expanded into a traffic circle that would cut across Alvena Avenue and into the north parking lot. The western side of the parking lot would create a dead end on Alvena Avenue. While no entrance or exit would be allowed on that side, a gated entrance would be available for use by emergency vehicles only, said Wrinn.

A new cancer center would be a part of about $100 million that Guthrie, the corporate parent of the hospital since Jan. 1, plans to invest in the hospital over the next decade, Yartym said.

Yartym and Wrinn said the hospital also plans to make significant investment in upgrading equipment in the hospital, including a total overhaul of its computer and record keeping systems.

In 2017, when Guthrie first broached a partnership with the hospital, about $41 million for infrastructure and electronic record upgrades was promised. Combined with the $10.6 million for the new cancer center, that still leaves nearly $50 million in projected spending that has not yet been tied to any concrete project.

Yartym and Wrinn did not have specific answers to where or how this additional money might be spent; the hospital is working on a master plan that Yartym has said would be completed by the end of the year.

About 30 people attended the Tuesday night community meeting at the hospital at which the plan was presented.

Two nearby neighbors were not happy with the proposal.

Harold Gregoire, who lives across West Main Street from the hospital, angrily denounced it, claiming that the hospital had broken its promise to its neighbors not to build where past officials said they would preserve green space.

Yartym said that she was not around when those promises were made, but Gregoire said that she should still honor them.

“You have ruined this neighborhood, and you are going to continue to ruin it,” he said.

Heidi Cooper, who lives on Loope Street, also said the hospital was reneging on an earlier promise not to build on that area of its property.

Yartym said the hospital chose the cancer center location partly because samples from the center could be walked to the hospital’s lab for testing without employees having to cross a street.

Other neighbors, however, had a positive view of the proposal.

“A hospital is a good neighbor, so I have no complaints at all,” said Robert Argyle Jr., who lives at the corner of Loope and Alvena, the one parcel on the entire block that is not owned by the hospital, an area that would see less traffic if Alvena were to become a dead end.