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Welcome news on Parkview and Randallia plans

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 12:01 am

Hospitals are vital parts of the neighborhoods surrounding them.

Cheers for Parkview Hospital, which has announced a $3.2 million renovation project for its Randallia Drive campus near downtown Fort Wayne that will include a new entrance, park, courtyard and signs.

There have been concerns about Parkview's commitment to the facility ever since the hospital announced it would move the center of its operations to a new regional medical center north on Dupont Road, and the feelings intensified when that enormous complex opened. The worries were so great that City Councilman Tom Smith convened a series of meetings between neighborhood residents and businesses and hospital officials. Parkview has always said it would maintain a presence at Randallia, but people had doubts.

Now we know. An institution willing to spend $3.2 million on something is not leaving anytime soon.

What Parkview actually does at Randallia will, of course, depend partly on what neighbors tell the hospital they need and mostly on what hospital officials determine will fit into their overall mission. But the campus's mere presence and the commitment of Parkview executives to keeping it open are almost more important than whatever mix of services actually ends of being offered there.

The importance of a hospital to the stability and well-being of the neighborhoods around it cannot be overstated. Just ask the folks around the current park space where Lutheran Hospital used to be how their neighborhood feels to them now as opposed to 25 years ago, or the folks who once dined at Casa D'Angelo's, the landmark that closed in part because Lutheran did. Just ask downtown businesses owners how grateful they are that St. Joseph still has a full-service hospital at Main and Broadway. Yes, commercial enterprises moving to malls on the edge of town can suck the economic vitality out of the core urban area. But departing community institutions can kill the very spirit of the area.

Institutions have to do first and foremost what serves their interests, and sometimes that precludes doing what neighbors want. Throughout the painful process surrounding the Lutheran closing, for example, it became clear that maintaining a viable institution in that cramped and unexpandable facility was becoming impossible to do.

But when it is possible to serve the bottom line and retain a commitment to the original neighborhood, companies and organizations should be encouraged to do so. And that those who make the commitment should be praised for it. Parkview did not have to stay at Randallia. It has chosen to.