Tobey Hospital expansion gets historic review

May 30, 2019

Tobey Hospital is one step closer to full approval for an emergency room extension, as the project received approval from the Historic District Commission on Thursday, May 23. The project would require tearing down the Tobey Homestead.

Tobey Homestead was built in 1825 and belonged to Alice Tobey Jones, the hospital’s benefactor and namesake. The demolition of the homestead was already approved by the Historic Commission. The Historic District Commission needed to approved the design’s appropriateness as the site is partially in the Narrows Historic District.

Thursday’s proposal, which incorporated changes based on suggestions from the Historic Commission, focused on the elements of the design that “pay homage” to the homestead, including elements of brick, stone, the color white, and columns.

The project, first proposed in 2017, would increase the capacity of the Emergency Room, which was designed to serve 15,000 patients a year. Currently, the Emergency Room sees 30,000 patients annually, and the extension would accomodate up to 40,000.

The extension would also feature the “Tobey Cafe,” a seating area designed with elements pulled from the Homestead, that would include a display of historic photos and information.

Some pieces of the homestead will be salvaged and reused as accents in the Tobey Cafe.

The extension would also require all emergency room traffic, including ambulances, to drive down Main Street and enter through a driveway located at the same place as the current Homestead driveway.

The extension would only be one story with a two story space for the lobby.

The plans for the parking lot contains roughly the same number of spots as the current emergency room parking lot and be on one level.

The parking lots accessible from High Street will stay open.

Commission members expressed concerns about traffic, but said traffic studies are outside of the commission’s jurisdiction and could only be ordered by the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals.

In addition to the emergency room extension, Tobey Hospital is proposing a gazebo to be located in Besse Park as a space for community members to gather.

Although Mary Besse expressed her wish for “no structures” to be built in the park, the commission is working to contact family members and feels confident that she would not have objected to a gazebo, which commision members think would make the park more inviting.

Helio Rosa, a representative of Tobey Hospital, said that the hospital and designers are proud of the design of the building and site as it “pays homage” to the Homestead and fits harmoniously into the neighborhood.

Although most of those in attendance at the meeting were employees of Tobey Hospital, some community members asked questions — with several expressing concern about routing ambulances down Main Street to enter the hospital near the intersection with Narrows Road, saying that area is already dangerous.

Rosa said that the hospital is working with the town to make sure the project is approved by all the appropriate authorities.