EDITORIAL: Public deserves details about $1B health project

February 23, 2018

It’s time for St. Vincent Health—or someone—to come clean about plans to build a $1 billion medical complex on 30 acres at 96th Street and Spring Mill Road in Carmel.

The project is too big and too important in its potential size, location and services for the public to be in the dark about exactly what will be located on the site—especially as local officials prepare to start debating zoning changes that could make it possible.

IBJ reported Feb. 19 that plans filed with the city of Carmel by Ambrose Property Group and Sexton Development LLC show a complex north of 96th Street and south of Interstate 465 that would include as many as nine buildings and four parking garages.

In addition, Ambrose has partnered with Bremner Real Estate to make lucrative offers to buy 13 homes in Lacoma Estates, a subdivision just west of the project location. That would add another 10 acres to the site.

A letter sent to Lacoma Estates residents says the project will “cost upwards” of $1 billion and include a large inpatient hospital, medical office buildings and parking structures. It also said the Lacoma “homes and lots ... are worthy of acquisition to complement our project, but not absolutely necessary.”

Lacoma residents who spoke to IBJ said they understand St. Vincent is behind the project. However, a St. Vincent spokeswoman has repeatedly dodged the question, providing neither a denial nor a confirmation. In one of her statements, Tangela Floyd said the health system is “not seeking to build new billion dollar hospitals, but rather focus on a more innovative approach to expand care.”

The statement seems almost too carefully worded. It says St. Vincent isn't seeking to build "new billion dollar hospitals." But the letter to residents and the IBJ never said that. Instead, the project was described as a medical complex with a hospital, office buildings and parking garages.

Floyd also said St. Vincent remains “fully committed” to its West 86th Street hospital, which sits just three miles away. Yet she did not go so far as to say St. Vincent isn’t behind the project on 96th Street, where the organization already has a deal to lease an adjacent 187,000-square-foot office building owned by Ambrose.

Certainly, many land deals are confidential until they are done. And often rezoning plans filed with local governments lack details, focusing instead on the types of uses that will be allowed in an area rather than on the specific companies involved.

But this is no ordinary project. This is a $1 billion development on prime real estate. It would have a major impact on traffic patterns, property values and bus routes (IndyGo doesn’t currently go to the site, which is on the edge of the Marion County/Hamilton County line).

Perhaps St. Vincent—or whatever organization is behind the project—wanted to keep it under wraps to minimize opposition until it was ready to publicly make its case. That’s understandable. But enough information has emerged now that it’s silly and just unfair to keep it a secret. The community deserves more information so residents can weigh in on key decisions about its development. If that information doesn’t come from St. Vincent, then the city of Carmel must reveal the details.•


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