Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

June 20, 2022

Ambitious $280M expansion plan to reshape CT Children’s Hartford campus

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Jim Shmerling is the president and CEO of Connecticut Children’s.
Click below to see what will be inside CT Children’s new patient tower.
More Information

Connecticut Children’s is undertaking the largest-ever expansion of its Hartford campus, as it prepares to grow existing services and launch new ones, including an effort to become a national center for fetal care.

Connecticut Children’s — which began operating in 1996 as the successor to Newington Children’s Hospital — is planning a $280-million expansion anchored by a new 190,000-square-foot, eight-story patient tower on its Washington Street campus.

The tower will connect to Connecticut Children’s main Hartford building and feature an array of services, including 50 private neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds, expanded behavioral health and cancer treatment services, and a new comprehensive fetal care center, hospital officials confirmed to the Hartford Business Journal.

The ambitious project will create upwards of 500 new jobs — including temporary construction positions as well as the hiring of about 25 new physicians and more than 130 nurses. It is being driven by increased demand for surgical and other children’s care and a lack of available space within the hospital’s main campus building, Connecticut Children’s officials said.

It also entails service expansion in Fairfield County. Despite being known as a Hartford-based hospital, Connecticut Children’s, over the years, has grown its footprint across the state and into Massachusetts and New York, with more than 40 different care center locations.

This is the site adjacent to Connecticut Children’s Hartford campus where the new patient tower is planned.

Its biggest competition in Connecticut is Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

“This is part of our overall strategy, as we are experiencing significant growth throughout Connecticut, as well as throughout the region,” said Connecticut Children’s President and CEO Jim Shmerling in an exclusive interview with the Hartford Business Journal.

A centerpiece of the expansion is the new fetal care center. Only a handful exist throughout the U.S., and having one in Hartford will be a boon for the region, Shmerling said. It will allow for early intervention of birth defects, including ailments that impact a newborn’s heart, nervous system, ear, face or neck.

“This will save lives,” Shmerling said. “We believe a program like this that is so comprehensive will attract patients from all over the country and will make Connecticut a destination center for these types of illnesses.”

Safe to proceed

Connecticut Children’s earlier this month outlined its expansion plans in a Certificate of Need (CON) application filed with the Office of Health Strategy, which must ultimately approve the project.

Ryan Calhoun

That could take upwards of six months, according to Ryan Calhoun, Connecticut Children’s vice president of strategy and business development. The tower expansion will also go before Hartford’s Planning & Zoning Commission later in the fall, Calhoun said.

The hope is construction could begin by April 2023, and the tower completed by the end of 2025.

Shmerling is not new to major expansions. He previously oversaw hospital construction at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

In 2017, Shmerling also led the relocation of about 400 Connecticut Children’s non-clinical employees to the Candy Cane building in downtown Hartford, a move that freed up clinical space at the hospital’s main campus.

However, space constraints remain an issue and have pressed the need for a new patient tower, Shmerling said.

The expansion blueprint was first presented to the hospital’s board of directors about three years ago, he said.

“COVID detoured us and we were forced to delay this,” Shmerling said. “We are still experiencing the ramifications of COVID, but we are at a point where it is now safe to proceed.”

In addition to the NICU and fetal care center, the proposed tower will also house new advanced cellular and gene therapy and bone marrow units. The gene therapy unit, Calhoun said, will allow children to stay in Hartford to receive more advanced cancer treatment.

“We are now sending children to Boston, but with this new gene therapy unit, those same children will be able to get the care they need right here in Hartford,” said Calhoun, who has been with Connecticut Children’s for five years. “This will entail providing cancer-curing treatments, as well as other advanced cellular gene therapy in trial.”

With the expansion, Connecticut Children’s will be able to perform about 12 bone marrow transplants a year, as opposed to sending those children to neighboring states as well, hospital officials said.

The new tower will also create more space for behavioral health patients, allowing dozens of additional children to get care on a more timely basis, Calhoun said.

“The demand will continue to increase and we have to start planning for that and expand now,” he said.

The pandemic spurred a children’s mental health crisis, and from 2018 to 2021, Connecticut Children’s said it experienced a 127% increase in behavioral health visits from patients who spent more than 72 hours in its emergency room.

Connecticut Children’s earlier this year outlined plans to build a new $9.7 million, 12-bed inpatient medical/psychiatric unit at its main campus on Washington Street. That project is separate from the $280 million expansion plan.

Financing growth

Connecticut Children’s is also adding to its Fairfield County footprint, where it currently has six different locations.

Its flagship 16,000-square-foot outpatient center in Westport is expected to double in size and will soon be providing 20 specialty and ancillary services such as clinical support, occupational therapy and behavioral health, among others, hospital officials said.

Connecticut Children’s said it plans to pay for the $280 million project by utilizing a number of different funding opportunities including philanthropy and structured loans. It didn’t provide further details.

Connecticut Children’s has performed well financially in recent years. In fiscal year 2020, the latest data available through the Office of Health Strategy, the not-for-profit hospital recorded an operating surplus of $27.1 million on $399 million in operating revenue. Its overall surplus was $41.3 million.

Over a five-year period from 2016 to 2020, Connecticut Children’s had a 10.25% overall profit margin, making it one of the best-performing hospitals in Connecticut, OHS data shows.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF