New townhouses, a new hospital campus and a new twist on a long-planned mixed-use project are among the changes the City of Laurel is experiencing as ongoing development and redevelopment projects advance.
According to Christian Pulley, Laurel’s director of economic and community development, housing projects continue to see significant growth. With the Westside community of 56 townhouse units nearly complete, several other residential projects have joined the queue. They include the newly approved 55-unit Spring Arbor townhouse community on Van Dusen Road, between Konterra Drive and Contee Road, and a new proposal for up to 180 townhouse units, also on Van Dusen Road.
Cohen Siegel Investors of Rockville acquired the 200-acre Patuxent Greens Country Club in 2017 and is seeking rezoning to redevelop the property as a community of single-family homes and townhomes, with public amenities.
Pulley, however, said no official documents or applications have yet been filed relevant to that project. Cohen Siegel, meanwhile, has abandoned plans to develop its long-proposed mixed-use Hawthorne Place project on Marshall Avenue.
Instead, Georgia-based Saia LTL Freight opened a new trucking terminal on the existing site in October 2017, solidifying the logistic services company’s presence in the northeastern market.
“In conjunction with our entrance into Maryland, we’ll also begin offering direct service to the greater New York City and Long Island markets,” said Saia’s Chief Customer Officer Roy Ramu, in a related release. “Customers have responded well to our northeastern service offering, and our new terminal in Laurel will expand our reach and service capabilities further.”
In February, officials with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) presented Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and the City Council with a status update on the transition of Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH) into the University of Maryland Laurel Regional Hospital (UMLRH).
Trudy Hall, vice president of medical affairs and interim president of UMLRH, acknowledged that the hospital’s transition and new construction take into account a nationwide trend in declining admissions that has occurred during the past decade.
“We’re seeing more patients being placed in the observation level with less than 48 hours of care,” Hall said, with only about 12% of all emergency department visits resulting in admission. “Approximately 75% of surgeries are now being performed in the outpatient or ambulatory setting.”
The strategic planning work group convened by Moe to help smooth the transition recommended a greater focus on behavioral health services at the hospital.
“The recommendation was to look at expanding the partial hospitalization program, and adding a substance abuse [program],” Hall said.
“The new facility represents a $50 million UMMS investment into the Laurel community, in addition to anticipated private investment into the surrounding medical campus,” she said, pending regulatory approval.
As envisioned, UMLRH will transition by fall this year from a full-service hospital to a 24/7 emergency department with critical care stabilization, short stay medical care, behavioral health services and same-day and overnight surgery, as well as laboratory, full imaging and pharmacy services.
UMMS has requested permission from the Maryland Health Care Commission to relocate inpatient acute rehabilitation and chronic care services to the Prince George’s Hospital, in Cheverly.
The university could break ground on a new hospital building by the spring of 2019 and anticipates move-in with no interruption of clinical services by December 2020.
“We will continue our primary care, women’s health program with OB/GYN services, our lung health program to handle COPD and asthma, as well as sleep medicine,” Hall said, in addition to existing wound care and chronic pain programs.
UMMS anticipates the addition of a wellness and weight loss program, chronic disease management, a diabetes and metabolic center, advanced care planning, neurology services and the capability for telemedicine consultation to better utilize the university’s resources and expertise.
The new hospital building will be constructed at the corner of Van Dusen Road and Contee Road, offering access from different sides.
“We have 10 observation bay units planned, tied directly to the emergency department,” said UMMS Vice President of Construction and Facilities Darryl Mealy.
Although the building is sized for four operating rooms at full build-out, UMMS is currently only seeking permission for two. “We don’t think we have the volumes at this point in time to request four, but we’re hopeful as our volume increases that we’ll get permission to get two additional operating rooms,” he said.
Partners in Health
According to Hall, the UMMS transition plan relies heavily on auxiliary and volunteer services to provide the highest level of service to patients and their families. “We provide a service to high schools and middle schools, for a lot of kids who need to [complete] community service requirements,” she said. “It’s nice to get them in a health care environment to provide that outlet.”
Laurel City Councilwoman Valerie Nicholas, who serves as the volunteer services coordinator for UMLRH, said that arrangement includes a partnership with high school students who are pursuing a health care profession track at Howard County’s Applications Research Laboratory.
“They come five days a week, and this is their second term of [service],” Nicholas said. “We also have students from Laurel High School, Reservoir, Paint Branch, St. Vincent Pallotti, all over. It’s worked out great.”
Moe said he has heard gratitude from employees and volunteers for the way UMMS is handling the transition.
“They were pleased with the open dialogue and very pleased with human resources,” he said. “I had real concerns with the numbers that we referred to back in 2012 under Dimensions Healthcare, [which] was running the system into the ground. I think we’re going to see more people using these facilities, and I think you’re going to see numbers go up, now that the university’s in charge.”