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Bon Secours Begins Planning for St. Francis' Future

"Charrette" brings hospital and community together

A gathering of Chesterfield County civic leaders, architects, planning officials and community decision makers joined Bon Secours Richmond Health System today to begin collaborative discussions on creating a healthy community master plan for St. Francis Medical Center.

The week-long planning session – known as a charrette – involves a holistic, collaborative planning process that harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan to support the vision of the medical campus.

The Charrette – which will culminate on Friday, Jan.16, with a design for future growth on the 175-acre St. Francis campus – is being led by Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture and a founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, internationally known as a leading proponent of traditional town planning and New Urbanism.

“The St. Francis campus offers an opportunity to enhance the Bon Secours mission of healing, spirituality and nature with an ideal design for its campus, which will be enjoyed for many years to come,” said Peter J. Bernard, senior vice president and CEO of Bon Secours Virginia. “There also is an opportunity for St. Francis to be the focal point of the larger community. We want to establish a quality of life here, which 30 years ago could not have been planned.”

In one week’s time, Plater-Zyberk and Bon Secours leadership will work with individuals and organizations across the public, private and non-profit sectors to examine the placement and design of future buildings on the St. Francis campus. They will focus on two critical areas – transportation and environmental concerns. Working with consultants, local transportation firms and agencies, they will examine the impacts of traffic and how the St. Francis site plan can positively influence a good transportation flow. They also will work with environmental agencies to ensure that water quantity and quality are not compromised.

“To help St. Francis in the placement and design of their campus, we have formed a complex and talented team whose leadership is effective in spiritual and qualitative integration,” added Bernard. “We want to focus our efforts on making the public spaces all around the campus as good as what we are doing to with healthcare on the inside.”

The charrette presentation covered St. Francis’ opportunities to implement five important principles of good neighborhood design, including:

  • A Center and an Edge, to give people a sense of place and identity
  • A quarter-mile radius and a five-minute walk, to encourage health by walking, social interactions and independence
  • Mix of uses - medical services in addition to a nearby post office, food market and other conveniences
  • A street network for pedestrian comfort, with a quarter-mile average block perimeter
  • Focal civic places - post office, churches, schools

Throughout this week, the charrette team will work on the St. Francis site plan, with particular emphasis on the area that represents the transition between rural and urban on the site. Through meetings with Chesterfield community groups, environmental groups, fire, police and public utilities, county officials, and input from neighborhood and the public sector concerns, they will look at the entire community within and around St. Francis Medical Center and make specific recommendations and provide guidelines on how to make the first moves towards the future development of St. Francis.

“The goals in building out St. Francis Medical Center include environmental responsibility, social integration and economic sustainability,” said Mark Gordon, executive vice president and administrator of St. Francis Medical Center. “We will achieve these goals through design, policy and management. Throughout the process, the Bon Secours mission is manifest in a healing, collaborative and nature-building campus. It will be an active community, with a contemplative environment.”

St. Francis Medical Center is one of four Bon Secours Richmond Hospitals. Others include St. Mary’s Memorial Regional Medical Center and Richmond Community Hospital. In addition Bon Secours Medical Group is comprised of more than 38 medical practices, home health services, assisted living and Hospice.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is a founder and emerita board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which was established in 1993, the same year that The New York Times characterized the New Urbanism as “the most important phenomenon to emerge in American architecture in the post-Cold War era.” Her recent publications include The New Civic Art and Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. She has been awarded several honorary doctorates and exemplary awards.

This urban design movement, which arose in the United States in the early 1980s, seeks to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning, including suburban infill. New urbanist neighborhoods are designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs, and are designed to be walkable.

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