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Lawyers, Hospitals, and Money

By Grant Hallmark
Alabama Political Reporter

“If they leave, several businesses around the area will simply shutdown,” state rep. Patricia Todd told Alabama Political Reporter. She continued, “The problem isn’t even profit, they make plenty. They just want to make more, and they’ll make more on the 280 corridor.”

Todd is talking about Trinity Hospital possibly moving from Montclair Road to the 280 “world class lifestyle-corridor.” Trinity’s parent company, Community Health Systems out of Franklin, TN, is attempting to move the hospital to the never-used HealthSouth building (the building was in construction during the HealthSouth scandal). While St. Vincent’s Hospital and Brookwood Medical Center have both opposed the move for obvious competitive reasons, there are many people are opposing the move for development reasons. According to Todd, the hole left by Trinity would not only be a blight on the Crestwood and Eastwood areas, but it would also kill several businesses that depend on the traffic Trinity (and previously Baptist Montclair) created. There are several pharmacies and grocery stores within a mile of Trinity that will undoubtedly suffer tremendously.

This opposition is to be expected. What one may miss, however, is the promise of development Trinity made to the city of Irondale, which is adjacent to Eastwood, by accepting $32 million dollars in bonds from the city government. The hospital had entered into a contractual agreement to build a clinic in Irondale near I-459, thereby investing further in the area. However, Trinity abandoned the plans and violated their contract with the city in 2009 after announcing the proposed move to the 280 corridor. Irondale subsequently sued the hospital and settled out of court with an undisclosed agreement and sum of cash.

Ernest Corey, the attorney representing Irondale, told the Birmingham News, “The city will not be out anything financially.” But where does that leave those who have invested in business and real estate in the upcoming neighborhoods of Crestwood and Eastwood if Trinity makes the move?

This area has attracted many young, new families with growing commercial areas and affordable housing. Quite a bit of the rapid, economic development over the past several years is due to presence of a major hospital. And the state representative representing the area, Patricia Todd, is speaking out against the move. “It would be terrible for the local economy,” she said. “And for what? For development on 280?”

The 280 “world class life-style” corridor, as dubbed by Charlie Tickle of the Daniel Corporation, is the epitome of fast-growth and sprawl. B-metro has an article about 280 called “The Road.” In it, the author spoke with an owner of a gas station that has been on the road for 55 years. Jamie Perrin, the owner, described the old days of 280: “You were in the country when you got out here. There was a barn across the road…” Now, the area is not only extremely developed, but also impossible to navigate. With the entire development focused on the corridor, the traffic going from Chelsea to Birmingham on the highway has become a nightmare and a civic problem. Several solutions have been proposed, including an elevated highway and rail transit. However, because the road runs through several suburbs, a solution will most likely not be agreed upon any time soon.

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While it seems Trinity’s parent company is not concerned about overdevelopment or access to its services, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Brookwood Medical are. They are still fighting Trinity in the Alabama courts to prevent the move, arguing that it will isolate the populace served in Birmingham, de-incentivize surburbans from going downtown to receive medical care, and that Trinity has been deceiving regulators by seeking approval for the Irondale campus while secretly planning the move to 280.

The case is still in the Alabama Appeals Court. It is yet to be seen if the court will allow the move.

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