How the One VCU Master Plan could reshape the medical campus

More than 1,500 people participated in the process to produce the Master Plan. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Hannah Eason, Contributing Writer

After a process that took more than a year and a half, the Board of Visitors approved the One VCU Master Plan on March 22. The plan outlines the university’s development for years to come and unifies the MCV and Monroe Park Campuses.

The plan guides the development for VCU Health through increased patient privacy, consolidated hospital services, a “campus main street” and suggested green spaces.

“As the first master plan in VCU’s history to create a shared vision for both VCU and VCU Health System, the One VCU Master Plan identifies common goals and provides an evidence-based vision for VCU’s physical development,” said Meredith Weiss, vice president for administration.

In a press release, Weiss said the plan will continue “to make VCU prominent nationally” and “connect” the university to the rest of the city.

Private patient beds and overcrowded facilities at MCV are the “greatest space challenges” for the VCU Health System, according to the Master Plan. The plan states currently 35% of patient beds are semi-private, and 65% are private.

“Given the fact that private patient rooms reduce length of stay, health care-acquired infections, patient movement and operating costs providing 100% of private beds was a critical goal for the Plan,” the plan states.

The expansion of the children’s hospital and new inpatient hospital is expected to make all beds private and accommodate for increased patient volume.

The plan includes the redevelopment of the Patient and Visitor Parking Deck currently located on the 500 block of North 12th Street. This will allow space for a new inpatient hospital and the expansion of clinical, public and support services. All rooms in the hospital will be private. The plan calls for the demolition of the Strauss Research Laboratory, the Tompkins-McCaw Library and the Patient and Visitor Parking Deck.

All inpatient beds will be relocated to the new Inpatient Hospital, eliminating all inpatient stays in the North Hospital. The VCU Health System will evaluate the backfill program, which addresses hospital overflow, based on future needs.

The expansion of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond is a key project in the Master Plan. The current pediatric unit will be replaced with 86 patient beds, new operating rooms, emergency services and family amenities. The building is proposed at 16 levels above ground level and four levels below, with additional parking to support the complex.

“The VCU Health System is committed to improving human life and providing the highest-quality, most comprehensive care,” the plan states. “The physical environment plays an important role in achieving these goals and ensuring a high-quality patient experience.”

The plan also proposes a 15-story adult outpatient facility at the corner of 11th and Leigh streets. The plan expects to use the former Virginia Treatment Center for Children site — which moved to Sherwood Avenue in 2017 — for the facility. The new building is expected to house consolidated adult outpatient clinics to support clinical care models and include a parking structure with more than 1,000 spaces.

The green space will be located near McGuire Hall, the proposed new Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Building and Lyons Dental Building.

Both campuses will have a redesigned “Campus Main Street,” under the new plan — Monroe Park’s will be on Grace Street, and MCV’s will extend down Clay Street with pedestrian-friendly retail, restaurants and housing areas. The plan states that this will increase foot traffic in these areas, while improving first-impressions of VCU.

The Clay “Campus Main Street” will connect to the new central green and extend to the Navy Hill redevelopment area. The $1.4 billion downtown Richmond redevelopment includes a new sporting and concert arena, hotel and affordable housing.

“The proposed Navy Hill redevelopment calls for a new mixed-use development that will revitalize downtown Richmond with retail, housing and other program elements,” the plan states. “VCU and VCU Health System support the project and are exploring potential partnerships that are consistent with the six guiding principles in the One VCU Master Plan.”

VCU President Michael Rao discussed the Navy Hill Redevelopment in a Richmond Times-Dispatch column. He said the proposed redevelopment does not solve all of the challenges facing the city, but “addresses many of them.”

“VCU is enthusiastic about the project because of what it allows our city to do: turn land that has sat dormant for too long into an economic engine,” Rao wrote. “We have the responsibility to use every means to produce income that we can direct toward schools, public services, and housing that people of many incomes can afford.”

The plan recommends expanding the green space at East Clay Street and North 11th Street to create a new “campus center” at MCV. This is similar to the proposed green space on the Monroe Park campus.

“The central green provides much-needed open space and creates a new heart to campus that will serve as a gathering place for patients, visitors, students, faculty and staff and will facilitate east- west movement through campus,” the plan states.

The West Hospital is expected to be renovated under the proposed plan. It is used for office spaces, but the plan states it is “in need of revitalization.” It will make way for additional housing and office space. The plan also includes the conversion of McGuire Hall into an office space.

“This is a unique opportunity for stronger connectivity between McGuire Hall and the new central green to the west and the proposed Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Building, Library and Innovation Center to the north,” the plan states.

Sanger Hall, currently the largest research building on the MCV campus, is expected to have continued renovation. The plan states the building faces complex challenges, but that significant investment was made to renovate labs and infrastructure.

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