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Oct 10, 2012 9:24 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton Hospital To Start Capital Campaign For New Building

Oct 12, 2012 11:59 AM

Southampton Hospital announced last week that it will replace its circa-1909 facility with a new, modern medical center on the Stony Brook Southampton college campus under a new agreement with Stony Brook University. But now the hard work begins, hospital officials said this week.

Foremost is raising the $225 million needed to pay for the construction of the new hospital in Shinnecock Hills, a price tag that includes not only land purchase and construction but also the retirement of some $34 million in existing debt.

It’ll be money well spent, according to administrators.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the hospital to maximize its philanthropic potential and to do something really extraordinary for the communities that we serve,” said Steve Bernstein, the president of the Southampton Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising and communications arm.

The foundation, he said on Tuesday, is just about to embark on a capital campaign and is setting a significant campaign goal that could exceed $100 million. The estimated cost will need some refining, he noted.

The financing is expected to be powered primarily by private philanthropy, but will also include debt financing and selling existing assets. Hospital officials are mindful of going about the process in a “planned, careful, thoughtful way,” he said.

He drew parallels to painting a house. “Rather than simply opening a can of paint and painting the walls,” he said, “you need to do careful planning. You need to prime the walls, fix things and make sure everything is in place before you start painting.”

The hospital plans to conduct a campaign feasibility process to assess its potential. This will include speaking to trustees, donors and other key prospects to gauge interest, even though interest already seems high.

Hospital CEO and President Bob Chaloner said last week following the hospital’s announcement that donors have long been requesting a new hospital. Mr. Bernstein said that the prospect of a new institution may attract new donors, perhaps those of significant means who support causes in New York City.

As with all campaigns, he said, it will start by soliciting the largest gifts first from those close to the hospital. The hospital itself will keep its name, although Mr. Bernstein said it is likely that, for an eight-figure sum, a donor’s name could be attached to it.

Hospital centers already bearing the name of donors, such as the Jenny and John Paulson Emergency Department, the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center and the Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute, for example, will keep their names after the move.

The hospital was transparent with its donors about a possible move to a new location years ago, Mr. Bernstein pointed out. Likewise, the still-to-be-built Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart and Stroke Center, for which its eponymous donors recently gifted $5 million, will be built first at the current hospital before being relocated to the new site.

Fundraising will also continue toward separate projects, such as plans to eventually build an outpatient cancer diagnosis and treatment center somewhere along County Road 39 in Southampton.

Mr. Bernstein declined to comment on what assets the hospital might sell, suggesting it was a better question for down the road with Mr. Chaloner. The hospital has long been planning to sell its thrift store on West Main Street, so it would have no bearing on the capital campaign, Mr. Bernstein said. It would also sell its existing building in Southampton Village, for which senior housing has been floated as an idea.

It remains to be seen whether Stony Brook will chip in toward the new building, he said, though the university made it clear it expects the hospital to lead the way on the fundraising front.

“This is truly an unprecedented opportunity for us to plan and implement a transformational capital campaign that would allow us to maximize our philanthropic potential and to change the health care landscape on the East End,” Mr. Bernstein said.

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