NCH Healthcare System and CannonDesign architectural firm presented a preliminary design concept last week to city of Naples Design Review Board for its proposed five-story heart institute at the current site of the Telford Education Center, south of Downtown Baker Hospital.
The meeting followed Naples City Council’s approval in September to make hospitals part of public service zoning, which allows buildings to exceed the city’s three-story height maximum if needed.
In 2021, Naples updated its vision statement to identify health care as one of the city’s top four priorities. NCH CEO Paul Hiltz said the heart institute project fits with this vision.
“We know there is going to be a nationwide shortage of doctors and nurses. The communities that provide the best facilities and equipment will be the most effective in attracting and retaining top-flight medical talent so that residents of Naples will not have to leave Naples to get great quality care,” he said.
The Naples Heart, Vascular and Stroke Institute raised $1 million through thousands of donors to begin the project.
Luke Johnson with CannonDesign presented the preliminary design to the review board. CannonDesign is partnering with Fort Myers-based Studio+ architecture firm, which is leading the design for the project.
The first floor of the building will be training and education space. Most of the programs already exist in the Telford building that will be torn down as part of the project. Also on the first floor will be conference classrooms, administrative offices and a gift shop.
The second floor will house operating rooms and be the only floor connected to the existing Baker Hospital. “When we talk about it as an expansion, this building will be using the main receiving docks, sterile processing, the main cafeteria and dining,” Johnson said. “So, it will be using a lot of those amenities and the second floor is where it ties back.”
Having a connection on the second floor rather than the first allows for more permeability through the site for pedestrians, especially to NCH’s Garden of Hope and Courage, he said.
Medical offices with exam rooms will be on the third floor, which is proposed to connect to the building’s new parking structure. “The thought process is that if you’re coming to see your doctor to do some readings and you’re not using the surgical floors or the main floor, you have the ability to come directly in through the third floor of the building,” Johnson said. The new parking garage will be part of a separate design review at a later date.
Patients will stay on the fourth and fifth floors of the building consisting of 27 private patient bedrooms on both floors, using a 3-to-1 nursing-to-patient-staffing ratio. The top floor will have a family lounge with access to a rooftop garden.
“[The garden] is kind of nestled and sheltered by the building to create another zone of respite for the staff and for people at the hospital,” Johnson said.
The proposed layout of floors seeks to centralize all the aspects of patient care. “What’s kind of really nice about [the floor layout] is it brings all the right patients and all the right doctors together in one vertically connected continuum of care,” Johnson said.
Design Review Board Chair Stephen Hruby said the connection between Baker Hospital and the proposed building isn’t strong enough. He worries the link to the current hospital is aimed more toward staff and doctors and doesn’t encourage the public to use the corridor because of lack of a cafeteria and lounge spaces.
“The linkage between the old hospital and the new hospital just isn’t strong enough for the public, for people visiting, people waiting for a procedure, waiting for their loved one, visiting their loved one in a hospital room,” Hruby said. “I’ve spent many months in with a loved one in the hospital and know the difficulty of getting around the hospital as a nonpatient.”
Hruby provided recommendations in regard to the design, coloring and material of the building. Some recommendations included changing the louver on the top of the building to a normal roof for simplicity and asking that the color on the lower level of the building not be as warm of an orange color since sunlight can make the color even darker.
Although the proposed parking garage wasn’t included in last week’s review, design board members were ready to discuss its impact on surrounding buildings and neighborhoods to the west.
Hruby agreed knowing the design of the parking lot is critical to the overall approval of the project.
William Jack, a heart patient at NCH who lives near the proposed project, spoke against having a five-story building in proximity to his neighborhood. He added there are questions that have yet to be answered such as specifics on which facilities or programs are needed for the heart institute.
“If you need a building that exceeds the Naples height limit, why can’t you build it elsewhere?” he said.
He also asked how the design of the modernized building fits into the surrounding aesthetic of the area. “In what way is this looming, five-story glass and metal clad building that looks like a cruise ship compatible with the adjacent single-family residential zoning? What studies have been done of the solar reflection that will glare off this building particularly in the afternoon and evening sun negatively impacting the residents,” he said.
The NCH team and the design review board agreed to continue the preliminary hearing at a future date to be paired with the design of the parking lot and landscaping.
There are multiple steps to be completed before NCH can begin construction. After design review is completed and obtained, Council has to approve development standards for the project since it is a conditional use under the public service district.
“At this point, it’s hard to really say ‘Does this meet code’ because we don’t know what those development standards are going to be,” Planning Director Erica Martin said. “Those are going to be specifically determined by Council.”
NCH must seek rezoning of the property from medical to public service before any official project approval. It is unknown whether NCH will request a rezone for the entire facility or just the new heart institute.
“Our intention is to build a great facility and at the same time to be a great neighbor,” Hiltz said. “We don’t want to build anything that’s intrusive or that doesn’t fit in Naples, and we look forward to working with [the city] to create a facility that will be great for patient care and also great neighbor to the community.”