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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 D. Jacobs proposed a 20,000-square-foot addition to the building that formerly housed St. Mary’s School to village Planning Board members 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 the hospital, Mr. Jacobs said. The addition will cost the hospital about $5 million.

The hospital renovated and opened the Lawrence Avenue building, in 2010. Physicians are increasingly asking for turnkey space provided by hospitals, and Canton-Potsdam is adding offices to make it more competitive, Mr. Jacobs said.

The expansion is a necessary investment to recruit physicians to keep the hospital viable, Mr. Jacobs said. The hospital still is 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,” he said.

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

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

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

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

“CPH is positioning itself ... to be one of the ones left standing at the end, here,” he told the Planning Board. “We are going to be the lead hospital in St. Lawrence County.”

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

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

“We see a decreasing fraction of the population that’s contributing to the property taxes which run the village,” he 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 Thursday night, and will formally review the proposal at its Oct. 18 meeting.

If approved, construction will start later this fall.

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