Planned Parenthood proposal

A look at one of the four houses on the 600 block of West Seneca Street that Planned Parenthood is hoping to replace with a 18,200-square-foot, two-story facility that would be its new home.

Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes is proposing to build a new facility on the 600 block of West Seneca Street in Ithaca.

According to Joe Sammons, president and chief executive officer of PPSFL, the additional space in the new building would help the organization meet the demand for their services.

“We’ve been at our current site since 1980 and we have just simply outgrown the current building,” said Sammons of the current State Street location. “We see 12,000 visits a year in our current health center and it’s just not sized for that kind of volume. And we would like to build a health center that gives our patients and our staff more room. We want to be able to grow to meet the needs of new patients.”

The current facility on State Street only has room for some administrative staff, so the majority of PPSFL’s administrative staff are located in other offices across PPSFL’s service area, and PPSFL’s education staff and education program are housed in a rented space separate from the clinic. Sammons said the goal is for the new building to serve as a headquarters for the agency, consolidating the scattered locations to create greater efficiency.

The proposed two-story facility received preliminary site plan approval at last month’s meeting of the City of Ithaca Planning Board. The building will be located on four residential lots on West Seneca Street that PPSFL purchased in 2006. Sammons, who has been CEO at PPSFL since 2008, said the plan to build a new facility has been in the works for about 10 years.

“It’s been a dream of this community for many years and we’re very excited about getting closer to seeing that dream become a reality,” he said.

The proposal is that the 18,200 square foot facility will house the outpatient clinic, a conference center, an education resource center and the administrative staff that are currently de-centralized.

“Everything we’re doing is within the zoning requirements and we’re going above and beyond, in fact, many of the requirements,” said Sammons. “We’re having off-street parking for our patients and our staff. We’re adding landscaping. We’re doing a green building with a geothermal system and other green features to make it sustainable. Our intention is to be a good neighbor and a part of a growing community.”

There will also be a sheltering garden where Sammons said patients can sit “in peace” and have a private and respectful place to get health care.

“That’s our investment here,” he said.

The proposed design of the building includes a residential-type peak roof so the building fits in with the neighborhood. Sammons was unsure at this time what would happen to the current facility once the new one is built.

“We think health care reform will create demand,” said Sammons. “We think already that there’re a lot of people who want access to women’s reproductive health care, women and men who need sexual healthcare, and we are excited about the opportunity to not just provide a health center that meets the community’s needs, but to have a location for our education program that is really a community resource to get relevant and factual information about sex and sexuality. And that’s what we’ll be able to do in our new building.”

As for growing the program in the new facility, Sammons said that PPSFL tries to put as much money as possible into programming and serve all clients who come to the center regardless of their ability to pay.

“We try to grow the program whenever we can, whenever grants are available or funds are available, because at the end of the day a health center is for taking care of people and an education center is for helping people make the right decisions and getting them factual information,” he said. “And there’s a lot of need for that today.”

But the real opportunity with the new building, Sammons emphasized, is to have a destination for people to go and get “honest” and “factual” information about sex and sexuality in PPSFL’s education center.

The proposal is expected to return to the Planning Board for final site plan approval in the next few months.

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