FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved an ordinance for a planned zoning district that will allow Mercy Hospital to expand its emergency room and intensive care unit.
During the Tuesday, Oct. 5, board meeting, Fort Smith City Directors voted to approve rezoning for Mercy Hospital.
The rezoning changes the category that the hospital property is under. Before the meeting, it was zoned as residential property.
Rezoning means an expansion of the ER and ICU, which will also have economic implications.
“Once the building’s built the project will have an impact of about 125 plus permanent jobs which include physicians nurses, patient care techs, respiratory care to name a few,” said Ryan Geib, Mercy Fort Smith Chief of Operations.
Mercy plans to begin construction on the $162 million expansion early next year. This includes adding more parking at the hospital along Rogers Avenue, expanding the ER from 29 to 50 rooms, and increasing the ICU capacity from 38 to 64.
Construction is expected to wrap up in 2024.
In the latest census, Fort Smith’s population increased slightly, but hospital leaders say it doesn't dictate the number of people they serve. Many are people who come into Fort Smith from outlying areas. Mercy Hospital serves about 450,000 lives beyond the city limits.
City leaders in Fayetteville agree with their counterparts in the River Valley. Fayetteville recently gained the number two spot as the most populated city in Arkansas. Washington Regional has made changes similar to Mercy in growth.
“So, we have outgrown our campus, we can’t go up we can’t go out. So, in doing so we actually just purchased a property on the other side of the street,” said Washington Regional COO Birch Wright.