Vassar Brothers breaks ground on $466 million development

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie started construction Sept. 13 on a $466 million project that, by 2019, will change the face of the 129-year-old hospital’s campus with a nearly 700,000-square-foot new patient pavilion.

The hospital held a groundbreaking ceremony that featured appearances from the hospital’s leadership, Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

“This is so much more than just a new building,” said Ann McMackin, president of Vassar Brothers Medical Center. “It’s a symbol of the renewed economic growth in Dutchess County and the mid-Hudson Valley and of the renaissance happening before our eyes in the city of Poughkeepsie.”

The new seven-level patient center will have 264 private medical and surgical patient rooms, 30 critical care rooms and an emergency department with 66 treatment rooms. Plans also include a 240-seat cafeteria, 300-seat conference center, 265-space parking addition and a rooftop helipad for medical transport.

“This project allows us to change how patients in our region experience health care,” McMackin added. “That transformation begins right here, right now.”

The new building, designed by Baltimore-based international architectural firm CallisonRTKL, will be designed to match the bends of the Hudson River, according to Health Quest. The project, once completed, will be among the largest in the history of Poughkeepsie.

The project will be funded by private hospital funds as well as fundraising through The Foundation for Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

Vassar Brothers is the flagship hospital for Health Quest, which also operates Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck and Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel. The nonprofit hospital operator also includes 265 affiliated health care providers through the Health Quest Medical Practice physician group in Dutchess, Ulster and Putnam counties. Health Quest operates two urgent care locations and is affiliated with the Thompson House, a 100-bed skilled nursing facility on the North Dutchess Hospital campus, an accredited home care service and The Heart Center, a provider of cardiology services throughout the region.

In January, Health Quest completed a $47 million three-floor addition to Northern Dutchess Hospital.

Founded in 1887, Vassar Brothers is home to the first and only cardiothoracic surgery center in the mid-Hudson Valley, as well as the area’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Construction for the new patient pavilion is expected to create between 300 and 400 jobs and be completed by 2019.

Throughout the process, the hospital will offer a preview of what the building’s interior will look like through a program it is calling the Prototype Experience. Open every Wednesday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the campus’ medical center at 60 Livingston St., the Prototype Experience offers a life-size model of the medical and surgical care patient rooms, as well as the nurse care centers in the new pavilion.

Vassar Brothers was founded by brothers Matthew and John Guy Vassar. The family attained much of its wealth through a brickyard and M. Vassar & Company brewery, which were both founded by Matthew and John Guy’s grandfather, James Vassar. After the death of their father, John Guy Sr., the brothers were adopted and raised by their uncle, Matthew Vassar, who founded Vassar College in 1861 in Poughkeepsie.

The hospital opened with four wards of 10 beds, a labor and delivery ward, a nursery, a children’s ward, three private rooms and two isolation rooms. The first building added was a barn for doctors to store their horses, according to a history provided by the hospital.

“We are raising the bar on how health care is delivered in this community, and we are changing how patients in our community experience that care,” said Françoise Dunefsky, chairwoman of the medical center’s Board of Trustees. “I am quite certain that if brothers Matthew and John Guy Vassar were with us today, they would be very, very pleased with where we are taking their hospital.”

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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