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All Children's clinic looking to expand in Pasco

Admissions at the clinic have grown 21 percent since 1998. Officials say they are looking at all options.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Six years after opening in the heart of downtown New Port Richey, All Children's Specialty Care of Pasco needs to expand. And it might not be within the city's downtown.

"We're outgrowing our existing space, and the discussions are around whether to expand in the existing space or look for other avenues," said Joel Momberg, executive vice president of All Children's Hospital Foundation. "We're very committed to downtown New Port Richey. We want to stay there and make it work, we're just kind of landlocked there, and we're looking at all of our options."

Driving the clinic's need for space is an increase in the number of patients being treated there. Admissions at the clinic, which offers 13 different specialty care services, have jumped 21 percent since 1998, from 13,000 in that fiscal year to the 16,500 it expects at the end of this fiscal year, said Bill Horton, vice president of ambulatory care and professional services for All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

The clinic currently occupies 14,000 square feet at 5640 Main St., in the former NationsBank building that was remodeled in 1995. Different offices within the clinic are open at different times, and about 25 people are working there at any given time, Horton said. When it opened, it was the hospital's first such facility. Since then, four other clinics have opened throughout the state, each of which operates within 18,000 square feet of space -- nearly a third more than the New Port Richey location.

Momberg said two problems with the current location are inadequate parking and building configuration.

"We're looking at the possibility of adding to that building, and bringing enough space to accommodate the increased volume. It may not be practical (to expand), and that's what we're struggling with now."

The hospital is discussing with nearby property owners the possibility of buying additional property, Horton said. The hospital also has received offers from a number of developers in the area, including Longleaf, a 900-home community being built by the Starkey family, north of State Road 54 near the Suncoast Parkway. Plans for Longleaf include a commercial district with shops and restaurants, in addition to at least 60,000 square feet of office space. Jay B. "Trey" Starkey III said Longleaf has discussed a number of options with the hospital.

"We feel our location works well for (the hospital)," Starkey said. "It's easier to find and closer to Hillsborough and Pinellas. We could add some benefit in terms of size."

He stressed that he is not trying to detract from New Port Richey.

"What New Port Richey has done down there is tremendous," he said. "It's really just our feeling that they're not the best user for downtown New Port Richey. We're not trying to gut New Port Richey for our project."

He said the ball is now in the hospital's court. "We've left the door open," he said.

Starkey's wife Kathryn has been heavily involved with the New Port Richey All Children's Hospital Guild. The Guild has held its annual Cowboy Christmas Ball on the Starkey ranch in recent years.

New Port Richey city leaders said the efforts they're making now to study downtown parking could help accommodate the clinic. The city commissioned a study to assess the current needs and inventory of downtown parking.

"We want them to stay," said City Manager Gerald Seeber. "We see our role as addressing the parking problem, because it affects not only All Children's but also the other property owners."

If the study indicates a need for more parking, council would consider the possibility of creating a public-private partnership to finance the construction of a parking structure, he said.

"There is a recognition that the health of our downtown is directly tied to the health of the residential community," Seeber said. "If there's a way to work with the private property owners to achieve their objectives and ours, we want to do that."

Mayor Wendy Brenner said she doesn't want to see the hospital leave.

"We think they've been an asset to the area," said Brenner. "Although we're not reaping the benefits of tax money (because they're a non-profit organization), it's been an asset bringing folks to the area, the more people we introduce to downtown, the better off the other merchants are."

- Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229.

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