St. Mary’s still has plans for downtown after merger

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St. Mary's hospital still plans to open a medical complex on Parcel C in Naugatuck.

Plans for a merger between the Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital will not affect plans for St. Mary’s to build a medical office in Naugatuck as part of the borough’s downtown development project, according to St. Mary’s President and CEO Chad Wable.

“I think that there’s really no impact on our commitment to the Naugatuck community,” he said.

The Texas-based LHP Hospital Group, Inc. (LHP) recently announced plans to merge with the Greater Waterbury Health Network and Saint Mary’s Health System, Inc.

The joint venture would replace both hospitals with a new, $400 million state-of-the-art medical center in Waterbury, according to a press release from Waterbury Hospital.

In Naugatuck, the 30,000-square-foot medical space planned on Parcel C is a key component of the borough’s Renaissance Place project, a public-private partnership between the Borough of Naugatuck, the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, and Conroy Development. The new building would expand Saint Mary’s services in the borough and provide space for affiliated physicians. The medical center in Naugatuck will have diagnostic equipment and personnel from St. Mary’s that will be able to take care of a variety of medical needs.

Wable said he recently spoke with Alexius Conroy, president of Conroy Development.

“It appeared to me that he was trying to get the project back on some wheels and moving in the right direction and that gave me a lot more hope that we’ll be able to work something out,” Wable said.

Wable said the future of the medical offices in Naugatuck depend more on the developer’s plans that the pending merger.

Once the hospital has a better idea of how the project will move forward, Wable said he would put pen to paper and work through the details that are required to make any final commitments.

Wable said St. Mary’s has always been standing side-by-side with Renaissance Place through its starts and stops and ups and downs.

Conroy said he is continuing to negotiate with the hospital as well as assist the borough in discussions with the state.

“The goals of the combined hospitals are similar to what they were, which is to expand their services and provide facilities both in Waterbury and outside of Waterbury. Our facility in Naugatuck will be one of those outside of Waterbury that will serve their patients,” Conroy said.

The project, which was planned well before the recession hit, has taken longer to get off the ground than originally expected.

“You would always like to have things move faster than they do, but they’re moving in a positive direction,” Conroy said.

Conroy said the plans for the merger are positive for all concerned.

“These types of facilities that we’re building will be of great service to the main hospital,” Conroy said.

The borough is building to build a 500-space parking garage to coincide with the medical facility downtown.

On Aug. 25, the borough interviewed five planning and engineering firms that responded to a request for qualifications to design a 500-space parking garage on Parcel C. The $10 million garage would support the medical offices and the train station.

Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo said the borough will choose two of the firms and review their financial proposals.

In April, the borough received a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to pay for the design.

One of the conditions of the agreement between the borough and the developer is that the town won’t build the garage without simultaneously developing the medical center.

Although he had not spoken with the hospital since it announced the merger, Naugatuck Mezzo said he expected the merger to strengthen the hospital’s financial position.

“From what we’ve been told, the merger would only strength the united hospitals desire to secure their suburban markets,” Mezzo said.