The parking garage on the campus of St. Francis Hospital was closed abruptly ‘out of an abundance of caution’ on Feb. 11, and West Hartford 1 LLC has provided a short-term solution.
By Ronni Newton
Employees and providers from St. Francis Hospital are utilizing the former UConn West Hartford campus parking lot on the east side of Trout Brook Drive as a short-term solution to an emergency situation created when the hospital’s Collins Street parking garage was abruptly closed.
The parking garage was closed permanently as of Friday, Feb. 11, and over the following weekend representatives of St. Francis Hospital reached out to West Hartford 1 LLC, which purchased the property from Ideanomics in December 2021, and after securing approval from the owner, hundreds of the hospital’s colleagues and providers began utilizing the lot on Monday, Feb. 14. Shuttle buses provide transportation free of charge from West Hartford to the hospital facilities on Woodland Street in Hartford.
A spokesperson for St. Francis Hospital told We-Ha.com in a statement that while closure of the parking garage “is part of a long-term campus improvement plan, which includes numerous enhancements throughout the hospital campus over the next several years, such as the construction of a new, significantly enhanced parking structure,” the timing of the closure was not as planned.
“With safety as our highest priority, we consulted with multiple engineering firms over an extended period to prepare for the upcoming demolition of the existing garage and construction of the new one. Based on the advice of these engineering experts regarding the degree of ‘wear and tear’ on the structure, we determined the best course of action, out of an abundance of caution, was to accelerate the timeline for the project,” the spokesperson said.
West Hartford 1 LLC representatives said Tuesday that they are working with St. Francis Hospital as well as West Hartford officials on a workable solution to the parking emergency.
“With no parking solution in sight, St. Francis Hospital turned to us to find a short-term place for their physicians, healthcare workers, and staff to park while they sought a long-term solution,” the ownership group stated. “We hope this hasn’t inconvenienced any of our neighbors, and we look forward to engaging them and the town we develop future plans for the property.”
Acting West Hartford Town Manager Rick Ledwith said St. Francis will be using the lot on weekdays only, and community access to parking for the ballfields and playground will remain available.
Vehicles can enter and exit from the southern end of the parking lot, but can only exit and turn right from the northern driveway.
“St. Francis is an important community partner, and we are working with all parties to ensure there is a solution that addresses the hospital needs, is appropriate for the neighborhood, and meets community standards,” Ledwith said.
A large flashing sign at the entrance, and portable lights, which were initially in use last week, have since been removed.
“We are grateful to the Town of West Hartford for their support during this transition,” the St. Francis Hospital spokesperson said. “We are working collaboratively with town leaders to ensure our operations are in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood and to ensure the public continues to have access to the Miracle League ballfields and parking.”
According to the St. Francis Hospital website, parking for patients and visitors, as well as patient drop-off and pick-up, remain available at 114 Woodland Street. Their new, comprehensive parking plan is designed “to reduce the inconvenience that patients, visitors, providers, and colleagues experience because of this closure,” and includes valet parking, available for a nominal fee, as well as free self-parking options.
“We are also grateful to our patients, visitors, providers, and colleagues for their understanding and patience as we embark on the first steps of this extensive improvement plan for Saint Francis Hospital,” the spokesperson said.
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