St. David’s HealthCare to build in Leander

David Huffstutler, president and CEO of St. Davidu2019s HealthCare, spoke to media May 13 about the acquisition of Forest Park Medical Center Austin as part of a larger investment in the area by St. Davidu2019s.

David Huffstutler, president and CEO of St. Davidu2019s HealthCare, spoke to media May 13 about the acquisition of Forest Park Medical Center Austin as part of a larger investment in the area by St. Davidu2019s.

St. David’s HealthCare has acquired 52 acres of land in Leander to build a freestanding emergency department by 2017 and a future full-service hospital, St. David’s announced May 12.


The facility will be built on San Gabriel Parkway between US 183 and Toll 183A contingent upon finalizing agreements with the city of Leander, according to St. David’s.


The property is located near Austin Community College’s future San Gabriel campus as well as Capital Metro’s Leander station, which are all located within Leander’s transit-
oriented district, or TOD.


“It’s a great opportunity and a great time in Leander and for our transit-oriented development district,” Leander Mayor Chris Fielder said. “We’ve seen a lot of activity [in the TOD], and we’ve waited a long time—10 or 12 years—to get that activity.”


The health care system is investing an initial $20 million for the facility, which will be constructed in phases—beginning with the freestanding emergency department.


“We’re delighted that we are going to be able to partner with the Leander community and provide these services in that community,” said David Huffstutler, president and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare.
“This will be a start with this … freestanding ED, and we expect that very soon we will be developing plans for a full-service hospital in that community.”


The 11,200-square-foot freestanding emergency department will offer 10-12 rooms and will have testing capabilities including radiological services and a medical lab. The facility will be staffed by St. David’s-affiliated, board-certified emergency medicine physicians as well as nurses trained in trauma care.


“It’s been good to work with the city so far, and I anticipate that we will be able to finalize this in the near future,” Huffstutler said.


During the first year of operation of the freestanding emergency department, St. David’s plans to hire 25 employees, which includes nurses as well as imaging, lab, registration and support personnel. After the future hospital is built, St. David’s plans to hire more than 200 people. The health care system has more than 8,700 employees and is the third-largest private employer in the Austin area, according to St. David’s.


Other plans for the site also include at least one medical office building. The future hospital could include 80 beds with additional capacity “as the community grows,” according to St. David’s.


Leander City Manager Kent Cagle said new jobs with St. David’s will fill a need in the city.


“They are such a quality provider … so we’re proud to have them in our city,” Cagle said. “The thing that we need most nowadays are jobs, and so it will bring good-paying jobs to the area. That will continue to grow as they grow their hospital.”


Cagle said the St. David’s project will also help to develop the TOD area around Capital Metro’s Leander station.


St. David’s is one of the largest health systems in Texas and has more than 110 sites throughout Central Texas, according to St. David’s.


The health care system comprises a partnership between hospital management company HCA and two nonprofits—St. David’s Foundation and Georgetown Health Foundation.


News about the Leander development was followed by a May 13 announcement that  St. David’s acquired Forest Park Medical Center Austin for $115 million, and plans were announced for a $70 million expansion at St. David’s Medical Center and a $50 million expansion at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. Huffstutler said the projects, totaling more than $275 million, will be funded by St. David’s HealthCare and its partners with no debts incurred.


“We were able to pull those projects together [and] get those projects approved by the St. David’s HealthCare board,” Huffstutler said. “The timing worked out fortuitously to be able to announce all of these at once.”



Leander incentive package


Discussions with Leander City Council first began six to eight months ago, Fielder said. Council first reviewed an incentive package for St. David’s during an executive session meeting in April. Fielder said the incentive package will go before several committees before final approval, including Williamson County Commissioners Court and the city of Leander’s Tax Increment Finance board.


The TIF board governs the TOD and the city’s tax increment reinvestment zone, an area in which half of new property tax monies on new developments go back into. The city has a list of approved projects that it can then use that funding for, Fielder said.


Cagle said these funds will help St. David’s pay for its infrastructure.


Pending incentive package approval, St. David’s will also receive a series of tax abatements from city of Leander and Williamson County, Cagle said.


“The county will have to bless that [incentive package] as well because they are part of the taxing authority as well that is giving up some of that tax revenue as an incentive plan,” Fielder said.


Details about the incentive package will not be released until all agencies have provided input and approved the final package, Fielder said. Leander City Council could approve the agreement June 2. However, that date is subject to change, he said.


“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re glad to see that these types [developments] are finally starting to coming around and be attractive to our great city,” Fielder said.


Huffstutler said one to two  sites were considered before choosing the San Gabriel lot.


“We believe that Leander is … certainly one of the fastest-growing areas and the next logical area that will need a full-service hospital sooner rather than later,” Huffstutler said. “We wanted to position ourselves to be able to do that when that time comes.”



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