'Health-care village' proposed for Lower Makefield site

Posted: September 21, 2013

Aria Health has proposed a "health-care village" for a 41-acre property in Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County. Aria's previous plan for the site in 2008 called for a hospital and medical-office complex, but that was stymied by community opposition.

Aria officials presented the new concept Wednesday evening at a board of supervisors meeting, describing a potential development with medical offices, a physical rehabilitation facility, ambulatory care center, and clinical space. Other elements could be a senior center, a health-food store, and a local pharmacy.

"This is a softer development with less impact on the land, the environment, and traffic," Brian Sundermeir, a consultant representing Aria, told the Lower Makefield board.

Sundermeir, vice president of development for MRA Group, a Horsham real-estate services firm, also said the new proposal was a better fit with the accelerating trend toward outpatient care and away from hospital stays.

The "health-care village" is a relatively new way of organizing care, Sundermeir said, citing four examples across the country, in California, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. Several of those are anchored by hospitals. The idea is to offer multiple services in one setting.

The original plan by Aria, then called Frankford Health, called for a 375,000-square foot hospital, a medical-office building and an ambulatory surgery center on farmland at the corner of Stony Hill Road and Route 332.

The facility would have replaced Aria's hospital in Falls Township across from the Oxford Valley Mall, but a community group sued to block needed zoning changes in Lower Makefield, halting progress.

Aria last year asked for a pause in the legal fight to recast its plans, leading to Wednesday's meeting, where the new plan received mixed reviews.

"I see a lot of benefit to this at the start," Pete Stainthorpe, chairman of the board of supervisors, said after Aria's presentation. "We're getting away from the huge hospital that was going to have a helipad, be operating 24/7, require additional police, to something that's about a third of that footprint."

Residents were skeptical of the need for more medical facilities.

Ronald A. Cancelliere said the concept was intriguing, "except many of these services we already have," he said.

"Let's be honest. In this area, I find it very easy to get an MRI, or to get any kind of services that I need," Cancelliere said. "We have these services. Nothing's new here."

Kate Kinslow, Aria's chief executive, said her organization would adapt the development to the community. Aria has not estimated the cost.

"If this concept were able to go forward, we would then have to look further at what is happening in the community, drill down to the demographics," Kinslow said.

Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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