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CPH proposes expansion of Lawrence Avenue facility

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POTSDAM - Canton-Potsdam Hospital is planning to double the size of its Lawrence Avenue medical campus.

Vice President of Finance Richard Jacobs proposed a 20,000 square foot addition to the building, which formerly housed the St. Mary’s school, to village planning board members on Thursday night. The center will house 53 employees, approximately 10 of whom will be physicians.

The campus is intended to help recruit primary care physicians to CPH, Mr. Jacobs said. The addition will cost the hospital approximately $5 million.

The hospital renovated and opened the existing Lawrence Avenue building, the former St. Mary’s School building in 2010. Physicians are increasingly asking for turnkey space provided by hospitals, and CPH is adding offices to make it more competitive, Mr. Jacobs said.

The expansion is a necessary investment to recruit physicians, which keep the hospital viable, Mr. Jacobs said. CPH is still profitable, but Mr. Jacobs declined to provide specifics after the meeting.

“If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to get doctors on board,” Mr. Jacobs said.

“The need for this space is so urgent,” architect Brooks Washburn added.

CPH’s building expansion is close in size to the 20,300 medical office building Massena Memorial Hospital is building on Maple Street. Like CPH, MMH officials said the building will help recruit and retain physicians and is part of the hospital’s strategic plan; the Maple Street facility is set to open by spring.

MMH CEO Charles F. Fahd II said that project is being through the hospital’s cash reserves, which recently totaled approximately $14 million.

The Lawrence Avenue building expansion is a long-term investment for CPH, Mr. Jacobs said.

“CPH is positioning itself .... to be one of the ones left standing at the end here,” Mr. Jacobs told planning board members. “We are going to be the lead hospital in St. Lawrence County.”

Potsdam Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis, in attendance at the planning board meeting, suggested the hospital pursue a payment in lieu of taxes or some other type of arrangement, which could benefit the village, such as employer-assisted housing.

CPH’s expansion into the former school building was one reason the village’s assessed value decreased last spring, putting a higher burden on the remaining property owners in Potsdam, Mr. Yurgartis said.

“We see a decreasing fraction of the population that’s contributing to the property taxes, which run the village,” Mr. Yurgartis said. “We need to try to capitalize on some of the good stuff that’s going on at the hospital.”

The planning board reviewed preliminary plans for the expansion on Thursday night and will formally review the proposal at their Oct. 18 meeting. If approved, construction will start later this fall.

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