There’s yet another large piece of the local economy that PeaceHealth, in becoming the corporate parent of Southwest Washington Medical Center, has assumed control of: 75 acres of land just off Interstate 5 in Ridgefield that figures prominently in plans for growth in North Clark County.
One development you can scratch off the list of possible uses for the land is Bellevue-based PeaceHealth’s planned headquarters. That site will harbor the nonprofit’s relocated corporate offices and some back-office employees from its other locations, eventually bringing 340 new jobs to the Vancouver area.
Peter Adler, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for PeaceHealth, said the 75-acre parcel is not in the running.
Nevertheless, Adler said, the Ridgefield site does have potential. It could become home to new clinical services, for example. A retail development to go along with some type of medical complex on the site is a possibility, too, Adler said. “It’s very strategically located,” he said.
Southwest, which purchased the 75 acres from the Port of Ridgefield in 2007, has planned for the parcel to be developed into a medical campus. That’s not changing with PeaceHealth’s new role as the parent of Southwest, Adler said.
If anything, the merger broadens what could be done with the land, said Ken Cole, spokesman for Southwest. That’s because the Ridgefield parcel is situated between two PeaceHealth hospitals — Vancouver’s Southwest and Longview’s St. John Medical Center.
“We’re certainly in a prime position for us to benefit when you consider our relationship with St. John,” Cole said. With a central location in Ridgefield, Cole said, “we hope to really develop a coordinated network for care.”
Southwest’s development plan for the 75 acres rests on a 20-year time horizon, Cole said. The hospital’s plan is to have “our next major hospital campus on that site.” For now, Southwest believes its campus in Vancouver has room for “another patient tower,” Cole said, and that would come before any new medical expansion on the parcel in Ridgefield.
Cole said Southwest had planned to build “limited retail on the site very soon,” but the economic downturn pushed that project back a couple of years.
In 2007, the Port of Ridgefield sold the tract northeast of Ridgefield’s I-5 junction to Southwest. The medical center agreed to pay $17.8 million for the site through a 10-year purchase agreement.
Port of Ridgefield Executive Director Brent Grening said the port bought the land in 2004 and, at one point, was interested in selling it to Portland-based Legacy Health System. The port “probably would have pitched it if (Legacy) hadn’t decided on Salmon Creek,” Grening said.
The port sold the parcel to Southwest because the nonprofit has deep ties to the area, Grening said, and the port expected Southwest to build a medical campus that would generate the kind of good-paying jobs Ridgefield wants.
Grening said that under the terms of the purchase agreement crafted between the port and Southwest, the port has the right to repurchase the 75 acres if development plans change substantially.
Grening said he welcomes the merger of PeaceHealth and Southwest, and the potential growth it could bring to Ridgefield.
PeaceHealth has dispatched a real estate team of three people to the Vancouver area to search for a possible location for the complex that will harbor its headquarters and employees from other locations.
Adler said the search for good sites is focused “predominately on the greater Vancouver area.” PeaceHealth has been deluged with contacts from people throughout Southwest Washington who are in the market to help the nonprofit find a suitable site, he said.
Under the merger agreement, the Catholic-sponsored PeaceHealth is the parent of Southwest Washington Health System, which runs Southwest Washington Medical Center. Southwest and PeaceHealth kicked off merger negotiations in March 2010. In December, the two nonprofits announced that they had reached a final agreement.