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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hospital making plans to expand

Just six years after opening a $55 million, five-story tower, Torrance's Little Company of Mary Hospital is planning another major expansion.

The hospital plans to construct three buildings on two sites totaling almost 267,000 square feet near its main Torrance Boulevard campus.

That's more than double the size of the 122,000-square-foot Hannon Tower.

And it comes on the heels of another major expansion at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, which is planning a $500 million, seven-story facility.

In both cases, rising patient admissions fueled by the closure of other hospitals in the area and increased demand for medical services caused by an aging population are driving the expansions.

"Our admissions volume from last year to this year in the first five months of the year is up 12.5 percent," said Michael Hunn, Little Company of Mary Hospital administrator. "We need more doctors to take care of an aging population, and we need to have doctors that are located near the hospital."

The largest of the three planned structures is a 106,000-square-foot, three-story medical office building with surface parking and a three-level parking structure on the site of the present Daily Breeze building at the corner of Torrance Boulevard and Henrietta Street.

After the hospital finishes work on that building, a second 68,400-square-foot, three-story medical office building with another three-level parking structure is planned on the western part of the tract.
The hospital purchased the 6.7-acre parcel in April 2007 for $14 million to $16 million.

The newspaper, which has occupied the site for more than 40 years, recently signed a lease with the hospital to remain at the location until the end of the year while it seeks an alternate site in Torrance.

The hospital finalized its plans for the site with the city last month.

Both the newspaper's main 90,000-square-foot building with its trademark blue-tile facade and a second 30,000-square-foot building that once housed the circulation department and a distribution center will be demolished to make way for the offices.

The hospital may try to move the huge fig tree that sits in front of the main building at a cost of $100,000 to $200,000 or, failing that, plant trees throughout the city, Hunn said.

The third building will rise on an Earle Street tract opposite the main hospital campus. That 92,100- square-foot, four-story building with an underground four-level parking structure will house 48 medical condominiums. A four-story, 63,000-square-foot medical office building already sits on part of the site and is expected to remain, city officials said.

The Planning Commission has recommended the hospital conduct an environmental analysis that looks at the additional traffic the project is expected to generate as well as other aspects of the development. The hospital has appealed the ruling, and the City Council is expected to make a decision on the appeal later this month.

Mayor Frank Scotto believes the environmental analysis is needed but the project is needed as well.

"Very few people want any more development anywhere, but having said that, it's one of those rare developments we truly have to do," he said. "We have to address the health problems and since we have the hospitals here in Torrance we need to do it." 

Article By: Daily Breeze, Nick Green


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