St. Luke's Hospital Network plans to build a professional medical office building along the commercial strip of Route 443 in Mahoning Township to serve the Carbon County area, officials said Wednesday.
The building would be on 2.54 acres immediately east of Aldi grocery store and just outside Lehighton limits, said Michael Crampsie of Summit Management and Realty Company of Allentown, which represented St. Luke's in buying the land from two local owners.
Carbon County records show St. Luke's paid $750,000 for the land, buying 1.43 acres from Grace E. Rudelitch and 1.11 acres from Norman D. Frantz for $375,000 each.
Dean Evans, president of St. Luke's physician group, said no development plans have been filed with the township, but the building likely would consolidate "a couple of fairly large primary-care offices" in the Lehighton area "for efficiency sake." He did not specify which offices those were.
He said the "working hypothesis" is that the building would contain only doctors offices but offered no details on the building's size or other characteristics. He said St. Luke's does not plan to build immediately, but did not say when it might.
Crampsie also said he did not have details of the proposed building, but it would "serve the surrounding area."
The site is about a mile from Blue Mountain Health Center's Gnaden Huetten campus, and the project continues St. Luke's rise in visibility in the area.
St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital in March opened a 2,900-square-foot sports and rehabilitation facility on the campus of the Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Mahoning at a cost of $240,000. It is staffed by a physical therapist and an assistant.
That facility also is about a mile from Gnaden Huetten.
Additionally, St. Luke's recently opened an urgent-care center in Jim Thorpe and offers physical therapy and wellness programs in Jim Thorpe and Nesquehoning.
And this month, St. Luke's started medical helicopter service based at Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Mahoning, the first such service based in Carbon County. The hospital has said it plans to have crews working 24-hour shifts in October and has asked the township for permission to build a facility for the crew at the airport.
Route 443 is a booming commercial strip, with Carbon Plaza Mall and Wal-Mart both a quarter-mile from the site. A Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe's Home Improvement center are planned within a half-mile.
Developer William Grant has started construction on Grant Retail Center just catty-cornered from the site. The two-story, 10,000-square-foot, multiunit site on 0.72 of an acre next to Fedor's Car Wash calls for six professional offices and two retail sections.
Grant has said he has met with cardiologists from the Lehigh Valley about leasing three of the professional offices on the building's first floor.
And Nis Hollow Hunting Club, which is close to the proposed St. Luke's site, asked township supervisors in July to change zoning for about 20 acres just off the commercial strip and for yet another major development that landowners would not detail.
Crampsie said St. Luke's felt "with everything that's going on along Route 443, they wanted to get the exposure -- that this would work out for the best in what they were looking to do."
Crampsie said Summit "did a comprehensive search and analysis of all possible locations along the Route 443 corridor" and recommended the site above other possible locations.
"There is quite a bit of traffic there," Evans said. "It's also centrally located."
The property is just five miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension.
Crampsie said the St. Luke's property contains a house and outbuilding, but he believes at least some of it is zoned commercial and thinks the hospital will have little trouble getting township approval for the plans.