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Lutheran Medical Center will move its entire campus 3.5 miles west to the Clear Creek Crossing development after more than 100 years in their current spot, with the new hospital drive-up looking something like this. (SCL Health rendering)

SCL Health will build a $650 million replacement hospital 3.5 miles west of the current Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge and move the entire campus there by 2024, according to a Tuesday announcement from the nonprofit health care group. 

The new campus at the Clear Creek Crossing development will still be in Wheat Ridge, but the move will leave a 100-acre swath of prime development land at the current location that is already part of an extensive citywide planning process. 

Other urban and suburban infills of that size in the Denver metro area have turned into thriving mixed-use developments such as Lowry, Central Park (formerly Stapleton), and Union Station/Central Platte Valley. In its release, Lutheran said it expected the current campus near West 38th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard to be sold to a single developer, making it easier for the expected master plan to coordinate growth. 

All Lutheran facilities except hospice care — which will remain on the current campus — will move to the new 28-acre campus at Interstate 70 and West 40th Avenue, a spokeswoman said. 

The new facility will expand and improve access to emergency and critical care in Jeffco and west Denver, the release said. New designs will do everything from reduce the number of steps needed between key hospital functions, to making more rooms convertible to ICU status, which proved an important backstop for area hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic’s worst days. 

Rooms will have floor-to-ceiling glass and sunlight, and more portions of the hospital will be designed to comfort patients, family members and caregivers. 

The hospital complex will employ about 2,000 people, and SCL Health claims it contributes $1.1 billion in local economic impact. Lutheran is the largest employer in Wheat Ridge. 

Lutheran currently has 338 beds and is a Level II trauma center, a designation it will retain at the new location. SCL Health, the nonprofit parent, also operates Good Samaritan in Lafayette and St. Joseph in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood, which was replaced in late 2014 for about the same amount of money. 

Hospitals, which have continued to thrive financially in recent years despite public pressure on overall health spending, have been relocating and upgrading facilities across the Denver metro area. St. Anthony Central moved to western Lakewood from near Sloan’s Lake in Denver. Newer health campuses in other suburbs, including UCHealth’s University Hospital complex in Aurora, HCA HealthOne’s Sky Ridge in Lone Tree, have quickly grown into their areas’ largest employers. 

Lutheran began 116 years ago as a treatment sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, as did many Denver-area health centers capitalizing on the dry climate. The hospital was built in 1961, with the main tower going up in 1973.

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...