Lutheran Readies for Big Move, Name Change

THE NEW INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTH LUTHERAN HOSPITAL WILL OFFICIALLY OPEN Saturday, Aug. 3., when patients and staff move from the more than 100-year-old downtown Wheat Ridge site to their new home in the Clear Creek Crossing development. Courtesy of Intermountain Health. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCL HEALTH

The new Wheat Ridge hospital that opens in August will be very different than Lutheran Medical Center. It will even have a different — but familiar — name.

Lutheran President Andrea Burch said the new facility will be called “Intermountain Health Lutheran Hospital” instead of “medical center”.

“We thought it made sense to standardize the name,” she explained. “‘Hospital’ makes sense to more people. And it’s easier to communicate when you say ‘hospital’.”

Construction on the new six-story hospital began in June 2021 on a 26-acre parcel of the Clear Creek Crossing development at Interstate 70 and West 40th Avenue, about three and a half miles from the current hospital.

Burch said the estimated $680 million project is expected to come in under its $710 million budget.

Burch said officials were unable to provide the exact cost of the current hospital, built in 1961.

“We do know the land cost $17,000 to buy back then,” she added.

Better Access to Medical Care at New Site

The new hospital, 19211 W. 40th Ave., will:

• Expand access to emergency and critical care, with easy and quick access from I-70, State Highway 93 and U.S. Highway 6, also known as Sixth Avenue

• Use lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so most patient rooms can be converted into intensive care unit rooms if needed

• Include quiet areas, such as an atrium and rooftop garden for patients and caregivers

• Be an energy- and staff-efficient facility with a decentralized, quieter, 16-bed unit design so nurses are closer to patient bedsides

• Allow more natural light in all rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass windows

Instead of helicopters landing on a nearby ball field to bring patients to the current emergency room — which she called one of the busiest in Colorado — Burch noted the new building’s rooftop helipad will mean much quicker access to medical help.

The 620,000-square-foot hospital includes 226 patient beds, 10 operating rooms on one floor, two C-section operating rooms, a medical imaging suite, two magnetic resonance imaging units, emergency and radiology departments, a central sterile area, a catheterization laboratory, women’s services, chapel, gift shop, full-service cafeteria and central utility plant. A six-story parking garage with a pedestrian bridge connects to the hospital’s second level.

One-day Move Planned

Burch said planning the move began about two years ago, led by a hospital relocation specialist. Wheat Ridge emergency response agencies and other entities have also been involved.

Lutheran will close its current emergency room when the new emergency room opens at 6 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, and move an estimated 180 patients one at a time in 20 ambulances.

“The city will have their electric street signs set up around the current campus so people will be aware and might want to avoid the area that day,” Burch said.

With additional help from about 200 volunteers, Burch said the move should wrap up around 5 or 6 p.m.

“We’ll set up command centers at both sites and everyone will be well fed when we finish,” she added.

Along with the new hospital, the five-story, 130,000-square-foot Intermountain Health Lutheran Medical Office Building will house outpatient clinics and other services. 

Lutheran received the keys to the hospital building on May 8 and have been training teams of caregivers on their new space and equipment since then, holding mock events and getting oriented to the new building.

“We also have over 400 volunteers who have to get used to things,” Burch added.

After the move, Burch noted the hospital will go through months of reviews and inspections by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other regulatory entities.

Legacy Site For Sale

Collier Hospice Center, a 24-bed standalone facility, will remain on the legacy campus and West Pines Behavioral Health will relocate to a new, 144-bed, psychiatric hospital planned for Westminster. Most of the rest of the legacy campus will likely be sold and redeveloped.

Three years ago, a city master plan was developed to help establish a long-range vision for the legacy site and guide the property’s reuse.

As part of that process, the city recently began preparing a zone district to apply to the downtown property, near West 38th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard, while Intermountain Health has been talking to interested buyers about the site. In the Nov. 5 general election, city voters may also be asked to approve a charter amendment related to building height and density on the property.

Chad Moynahan, Intermountain Health’s director of real estate, recently told the Gazette the rezoning should not be a hurdle for potential buyers.

“The city’s vision for the property is not a limiting factor,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of sites available like this one in the middle of a city of this size with this visibility. It’s kind of a trophy opportunity.”

Moynahan also wasn’t sure the potential city charter change would affect what could be built. He had spoken to several potential “big name” buyers since Intermountain started marketing the property in April.

Burch said caregivers have opportunities to honor the legacy site and their many years there.

More Than a Century of Growth, Mixed Feelings

Lutheran began as a tuberculosis sanitarium in 1905 (119 years ago) and is Jefferson County’s first hospital. Today, it provides the county’s only labor and delivery program.

Lutheran delivers approximately 1,600 babies, provides inpatient care for 13,000 people, emergency services to 60,500 people and  113,000 people receive outpatient services each year.

As Wheat Ridge’s largest employer with about 1,800 workers and 1,300 medical staff, the Level II trauma hospital — a designation that also moves to the new location — has an approximate $1.1 billion annual economic impact on the city.

Burch — who started with Lutheran 16 years ago as a critical care nurse — said she and most other employees likely have mixed feelings about the move.

“Some people have been here for more than 40 years, some of them were married in our chapel and some were born here and are still working here,” she said. “It’s like a second home to them. So there’s a deep sense of loss but there’s also the excitement of the new campus.”

A Thursday, July 18, ribbon cutting is planned, followed by a community celebration and open house at the new hospital from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, July 20. Tours will be available at that time.

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