SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Plans to move the offices of Hospice of Southern Maine to a $7.5 million campus off U.S. Route 1 and Lincoln Avenue gained firmer footing Aug. 5 when the Scarborough Planning Board approved a master plan for the proposal.
Arlene Wing, hospice executive director, said in an email Wednesday she hopes the new office and education center can be completed “in mid to late 2015,” but cautioned the project is contingent on fundraising.
Preliminary plans call for a 1,700-square-foot combination of offices, training and bereavement counseling areas. Hospice offices are now at 180 U.S. Route 1.
By a 4-0 vote, with Chairman Allen Paul absent, Planning Board members signalled they were satisfied with the building location, parking plans and basic details of dealing with storm water and wetlands impact.
The listed address is 390 U.S. Route 1, but hospice Chairman David Perkins said creating a peaceful setting for staff and families makes Lincoln Avenue the true site address.
“This property is really perfect for us because it is visible, … it is easy to access from the highway, and it is a very beautiful property,” Perkins said.
Architect Charlie Rizza of the Portland office of Morris Switzer Architects said the plans seek to balance the needs of staff and families with town standards through landscaping, while minimizing impact on about 35,000 square feet of wetlands.
Wing said the demand for services at home and at the 18-bed Gosnell Memorial Hospice House at 11 Hunnewell Road have increased.
“We expect to serve over 1,300 patients in 2013,” Wing said. “[Hospice] grew by 27 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, and we are predicting continued growth over the next several years.”
Wing estimated as many as 150 patients receive in-home care daily, with another 12 staying at Gosnell House. She said the increased need for services show a changing approach to dealing with terminal illnesses.
“We want to shift societal attitudes when it comes to death and dying,” Wing said.
The first phase of construction calls for the offices, training areas and conference rooms. A second phase will add a 5,000-square-foot pavilion for bereavement counseling and training. The pavilion size is an estimate, made to show the Maine Department of Environmental Protection the largest possible scope of plans.
Wing said families can get bereavement counseling up to 13 months after the death of a loved one.
“The ease of access combined with serenity will be ideal for those who are grieving and highly stressed,” she said.
In-home services will also be bolstered at the new site, Wing said.
“The new building will provide coordination of our home care services where it functions like a remote hospital nurses station, with clinicians fielding phone calls from patients, family members and physicians, and arranging for pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and all the services needed to care for a dying patient,” she said.
DEP approval will be needed because of the impact on wetlands, but the agency did issue a permit about 13 years ago when Hancock Lumber planned to build on the property.
The office would be built on nearly eight acres, almost six of which are owned by Hannaford Bros. The remaining land approaching Lincoln Avenue is part of the Scarborough Industrial Park. Wing said the $7.5 million estimate includes buying the land.
Planning Board site-plan approval is needed, and Rizza said he was not certain when the board would be approached with more details on the project.
Wing said people served by Hospice of Southern Maine in Cumberland and York counties may be approached to provide financial support for the project, as will philanthropic foundations. A $1.5 million gift has already been received.
“With increasing expenses and decreasing revenues from federally funded programs such as Medicare and MaineCare,” she said, “our ability to raise enough money to be able to pay for the project completely is very important for our future sustainability.”