Construction will begin next week on Maine Medical Center’s $512 million expansion and renovation project, with a portion of Congress Street to be closed for eight weeks starting Monday.
The detour is necessary to make room for a crane that will be used to build three floors on top of Maine Med’s visitor parking garage, which will add 225 spaces to the 480-vehicle facility.
Congress Street will close between Forest and Weymouth streets from May 7 to June 29. Detours will take vehicles to Park Avenue, either down St. John Street or Weymouth Street, depending on which way drivers are traveling.
The visitor garage and the addition of two floors to the East Tower are the first phase of a five-year construction project. The garage is expected to be completed by the end of this year while the East Tower – which will house oncology services – is scheduled to be done by late next year.
“This detour will allow Maine Medical Center to safely and efficiently add 225 much-needed parking spaces to serve our patients and guests,” said Jeff Sanders, Maine Med’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We developed the route carefully, in full collaboration with the city and other key stakeholders, and we are committed to reopening Congress Street as scheduled.”
Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said that the city and hospital have “developed a strong plan.”
“We want to stress that area businesses remain open and that we are doing everything possible to make sure they are not adversely impacted during this phase of the project. If any issues arise, we will address them swiftly and fully,” Jennings said in a statement. “We absolutely recognize the importance of making this detour work for Maine Med and the city’s residents, businesses and visitors.”
Bus stops on Congress between Weymouth and St. John streets will not be accessible while the portion of Congress is closed.
The crane to assist with the parking garage addition is so massive that it will take about three days next week to assemble and will take up both lanes of Congress Street, said Timothy Braun, project manager for Maine Med. He said the garage addition will arrive in more than 200 pre-cast pieces, each weighing more than 30 tons.
On Wednesday afternoon, workers were beginning preliminary work on construction, which is expected to continue through 2023. A smaller crane lifted materials to the top of the East Tower, which when completed will have 64 new patient rooms. The East Tower will also be the new home of the helipad, which is currently located on top of the employee parking garage. The new helipad will have two spots for helicopters to land, and will be located next to an elevator, so that patients can be easily transported from the top of the building to the emergency department.
Braun said the East Tower will take longer to construct because the medical building is more complex than a parking garage, which will fit together “like Lego pieces.”
The $512 million project will create a new main entrance on Congress Street as part of a 270,000 square-foot addition, and add 128 new single-occupancy patient rooms and 19 procedure rooms for surgeries and other treatments. The total patient capacity at Maine Med – 637 beds – will not change because rooms are being converted from double occupancy to single occupancy.
Single-occupancy is now considered the standard of care at hospitals, to help prevent infections and for patient safety and comfort. Maine Med’s building footprint will increase by about 25 percent, and shifting the main entrance to Congress Street will give the hospital more visibility on Congress Street.
“This will change the face of Congress Street,” said Matt Wickenheiser, a Maine Med spokesman.