Ellis Hospital doesn’t currently need anything close to the 390 parking spaces in the garage it wants to build just 15 feet off Rosa Road. One of its administrators even admitted as much last month, telling the Board of Zoning Appeals they are “planning for the future.”
True, the hospital’s main campus has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent decades, and may continue doing so after its new emergency room project is finished in early 2015. The hospital does indeed have parking problems. But its solution — to build a five-story garage instead of just a three-story one — represents the easy way out for itself, and the hard way out for the residential neighborhood it’s situated in.
Even with noise-reduction baffles, brick colonnades and 20-foot spruce trees out front, and light-focusing fixtures on the roof, a 52-foot garage would still be the elephant in the neighborhood. Or, to employ another large animal analogy, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
And the fact it has been designed with the entrance directly across from a quiet residential street has done little to assuage neighbors’ fears about the traffic nightmares it might create for them.
Granted, these aesthetic issues would all be present with a garage just three stories high (and 212 spaces), as the hospital originally proposed and the city BZA approved in June, but they’d be two-thirds more prominent with five stories instead of three.
According to the formula hospital officials have cited, their new 28,000 square-foot emergency room would need just 112 to 168 additional spaces. Of course a lot of current and future parking headaches — for patients, visitors and employees — would be remedied if a bigger garage could be built, but as we noted in an Aug. 11 editorial, a better solution exists.
That’s to impose a residential parking permit in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital so employees couldn’t park in them all day and would be forced to use the remote lot and shuttle the hospital offers them. Of course many of these employees don’t want to take the time or trouble, and won’t unless there’s no alternative.
The city should grant Ellis its 212 spaces, and get to work on a permit system so that when the hospital gets busier and demand for parking increases, employees won’t have any other choice but to park off-campus. And visitors can use the two garages that were intended for them.