Bulldozers clear way for Baptist-MD Anderson Cancer Center

Bulldozers clear way for Baptist-MD Anderson Cancer Center
A San Marco bungalow on Palm Avenue is demolished to make way for the new Baptist Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is due to be built by 2017.

Bulldozers were out in April tearing down bungalows along Palm Avenue and Childrens Way, as Baptist Health begins the process of clearing land so that a new state-of-the art cancer center may be built.

On April 17, Baptist Health signed a partnership agreement with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to join forces in transforming oncology care in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. The institutions plan to create a joint cancer program in order to allow patients in the North Florida region greater access to MD Anderson’s treatment protocols, clinical trials and translational research. MD Anderson is currently considered one of the two best hospitals for cancer care in the United States according to US News and World Report’s annual “Best Hospitals” survey.

Some of the houses lining Children’s Way in San Marco that are scheduled for the wrecking ball so that the new Baptist Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center can be built.

Some of the houses lining Children’s Way in San Marco that are scheduled for the wrecking ball so that the new Baptist Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center can be built.

The new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center will open this fall and will be initially housed in the Baptist Outpatient Center on San Marco Boulevard, where the Hill Breast Center is currently located.

A new medical director will be hired for the cancer center and new staff is currently being recruited. The new venture will add a significant number of jobs to the local economy, said Melanie Husk, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Baptist Health.

An architectural firm will be selected in May to design a new building that is anticipated to require between 175,000 to 200,000 square feet and will be located in the block bordered by Palm Avenue, Gary Street, Children’s Way and San Marco Boulevard, between the Baptist Outpatient Center and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care. The expected open date for the new cancer center is 2017. Baptist Health will absorb the costs of building the cancer center, but the co-branded name once it is built will be Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The dedicated facility will be designed to serve a full continuum of cancer-care needs including screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. In building the center, Baptist Health plans to replicate the MD Anderson model of care so that cancer patients and their families can receive the highest level of care close to home.

Although the design process for the new building has not begun, Baptist Health “is committed to keeping the community informed and sharing plans as they are developed,” said Husk. “An important design goal of the new center will be to enhance and complement the surrounding neighborhood as we increase the community’s access to world-class cancer care here in Jacksonville.

Looking for land

The house that once stood at 917 Childrens Way lies in rubble April 22.

The house that once stood at 917 Childrens Way lies in rubble April 22.

Baptist has been actively working to obtain the land required for the new cancer center. On April 15, Burkhalter’s Wrecking Service tore down a bungalow at 1323 Palm Avenue, and a week later Burkhalter’s crew flattened the home at 917 Childrens Way, which in March had been sold to Baptist by Dr. David Sall and his wife, Patricia Stacey Sall.

Although the Salls also sold Baptist their building next door, 1357 Palm Avenue, where they house their active psychiatric practice, they have no plans to leave anytime soon. Their deal with the hospital allows them to stay until sometime in “November or December,” said Patricia “Trish” Sall, who works alongside her husband as a licensed clinical social worker. Trish Sall wished to assure their patients that the same high level of care they are currently receiving at the Palm Avenue location will continue unchanged as they work to secure alternative office space nearby.

“We’ve been affiliated with Baptist for 39 years,” Trish Sall said. “We knew for a long time that they wanted to expand into this area.”

Moving to accommodate Baptist’s burgeoning need to build new facilities is nothing new to the Salls. They’ve moved their offices twice before when Baptist tore down the buildings their practice was in to put up newer facilities.

The house at 917 Childrens Way in San Marco was demolished April 22.

The house at 917 Childrens Way in San Marco was demolished April 22.

The Salls have been at their Palm Avenue location since 1984, when they shared the practice with Dr. James Larsen. In 1993, the Salls dissolved their partnership with Larsen, and he moved the practice to Orange Park while the Salls took ownership of the two buildings in San Marco. They renovated the house at 917 Childrens Way and rented it. During the last four years it was home to the Sall’s son and later to David Edwards, a good friend.

Sall said she had “mixed” feelings when she stood on the back porch of her practice building and watched the house next door be demolished. “It was a really neat old building,” she said.

Sall said she and her husband had the house on Childrens Way on the market for a year and had entertained other offers before deciding to sell both properties to Baptist. “We realized it would be awkward for us to stay here (with the big building going up nearby),” she said. “They (Baptist) were very reasonable and made it as easy for us as possible.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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