Officials at St. Luke's Health System say they can now move forward with their plans for a $400 million expansion.
Hospital officials had to wait for the Ada County Highway District to agree to a permanent closure of a stretch of Jefferson Street in downtown Boise in order to grow the hospital campus footprint.
Following two nights of testimony, ACHD commissioners voted 4-1 June 23 to close Jefferson between First Street and Avenue B, expected to occur within the next two years. ACHD Commissioner Jim Hansen was the lone "no" vote.
ACHD said it worked on the expansion plans for nearly six years and, as recently as a year ago, the proposal was in jeopardy when city of Boise Planning and Zoning commissioners pushed back
against the idea of shutting down one of downtown's major thoroughfares.
What followed was a bizarre mix of
threats from St. Luke's that it would pull up stakes and move much of its operations to Meridian, followed by a charm offensive that ultimately won over city of Boise
and ACHD elected leaders.
Throughout much of the past two years, residents of the East End Neighborhood Association told anyone who would listen that the closure of Jefferson wasn't necessary and would deprive residents of a popular connection to and from downtown.
Hansen agreed with those residents, voting against the proposal, but was outnumbered by fellow Commissioners Rebecca Arnold, Sara Baker, Kent Goldthorpe and Paul Woods.
St. Luke's first opened its doors in 1902 as a frontier hospital with six beds to care for settlers and miners struggling with scarlet fever, smallpox and typhoid. A four-story facility followed in the 1920s, then a "million-dollar wing" was added in 1952.
The hospital accepted its first Medicare patient in 1967, saw its first open-heart surgery in 1968 and a $10 million expansion in 1977. In 1999, St. Luke's opened Idaho's only Children's Hospital.
The new master plan proposes a 357,000-square-foot medical tower; a combined central plant and parking garage; 100,000 square feet of additional medical office buildings; and a total floor-area expansion of approximately 567,000 square feet. Now, that plan also includes the two-block closure of Jefferson Street.