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Excela pitches outpatient facility

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Excela Health on Monday disclosed preliminary plans for a proposed 114,000-square-foot outpatient medical facility on a 27-acre parcel south of Route 30 in Unity — a project it hopes to start building by summer.

The medical mall concept that Excela is proposing for the Unity site behind Arnold Palmer Motors on Route 30 would make health care more easily accessible for patients by placing their primary care physicians, specialists, rehabilitation and diagnostic services under one roof, Michael D. Busch, Excela's chief operating officer, told the township planning commission. The outpatient facility would consolidate services offered patients in about 20 locations in the Latrobe area, Busch said.

“This project is consistent with our strategic plan of two years ago. We will provide patients a level of coordinated care,” under one roof, Busch said.

The preliminary plan allows for the possibility of expansion.

But it was the accessibility to the site that most concerned planning commission members who viewed the plan for the three-story facility. Motorists would be able to access the complex from a road off Route 30 adjacent to the Mountain Laurel Plaza and from a new road off Arnold Palmer Drive, about 500 feet east of Palmer's Springhill Suites hotel.

The plan, however, does not include improvements to Giffin Drive, an access road from Route 30 into the medical facility, said Daniel Schmidt, township engineer. The road should be made a two-way street from the Burger King restaurant to the facility, Schmidt said. The road is one-way from the Burger King into the parking lot for Lowe's and Wal-Mart Stores, Schmidt said.

Planning commission members questioned why a road would not be built connecting the medical facility site to Mountain Laurel Plaza, but Bryan Clement, an engineer with H.F. Lenz Co. of Johnstown, said the plaza owner and Giant Eagle Supermarkets Inc., a major tenant, rejected the idea of connecting the two developments.

Planning commission member Gabe Monzo suggested that Excela design a plan for a road connecting the Mountain Laurel Plaza to the medical facility.

The township supervisors could consider using eminent domain to take the necessary right-of-way to connect the medical facility site with the shopping plaza, Monzo said.

“There's not been a hammer for 15 years of dealing with the issue,” Tom Baumann, planning commission chairman, said in reference to using eminent domain.

But, Baumann added that he believes Excela does not “want to be the guinea pig” to go through the potentially long court process to have eminent domain approved.

”We don't want it to be held up for reasons out of our control,” Clement said.

The cost of the project has not yet been determined, Busch said. He said previously that the health system has the ability to finance the project. The health system still is negotiating to buy the property from Colony Associates, Busch said.

Excela is expected to return to the planning commission in December with a final site plan that could be reviewed for possible recommendation for approval by the township supervisors.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-3562 or jnapsha@tribweb.com

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