$60 million in donations needed before AVH project can proceed
Aspen Valley Hospital will have seven years, instead of the usual three, to complete the final two phases of its expansion project, according to approvals granted by City Council on Monday night.
The longer time frame is intended to give the hospital plenty of breathing room to raise the $60 million it is seeking in private donations in order to build phases three and four. The first two phases already have been approved, and are completed or nearing completion.
During two months of land-use hearings on phases three and four, hospital officials were adamant that they would not go forward with the project until they had raised all the funds needed for completion. Phases three and four include a new emergency room, medical offices and a new front entry, among other features.
“Generally speaking, regarding the time frame for construction, there is some uncertainty related to fundraising,” AVH spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said. She added that the project won’t start until donations have been collected and not just pledged.
“I think seven years was just to be on the safe side,” Dyche said.
AVH board president John Sarpa said he doesn’t anticipate being seven years down the road before construction starts on the expansion’s final phases.
“I certainly hope not and I certainly don’t expect to be,” Sarpa said.
To lead the fundraising initiative, the hospital has hired Deborah Breen, who was the president of a hospital foundation in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Breen arrived in January and has been busy setting up the foundation and its board, and laying the groundwork for the high-dollar fundraising campaign. Around $15 million has been pledged or collected so far, hospital officials told the Daily News in March.
Breen said then that she hoped to reach $40 million in pledged donations by the end of the year, focusing on large contributions, and raise the rest through a public capital campaign, hopefully by late 2014.
With most land-use entitlements, the developer has three years to begin construction on the project before the approvals expire. City Council is often skeptical of requests for longer vesting periods, arguing that granting such a request carries questionable public benefit.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said that the seven-year vesting of hospital approvals wasn’t as controversial because it went along with the organization’s need to raise the money before starting construction. Ireland added that the landscaping requirements to screen phase two’s massing called for in Monday’s approvals must be completed — or a bond for their completion must be secured — before the hospital can get a building permit for phases three and four.
He added that he didn’t think the hospital wants to wait that long to get the final project going.
“I think they are going to proceed as quickly as they can,” he said.