The future of the planned Hope Lodge has become somewhat uncertain, following a Jan. 23 University Senate vote to support a recommendation from the Senate's Committee on the Environment to change the facility's proposed site. The Committee's recommendation stems from concerns over possible damage that construction of Hope Lodge might do to the serene, bucolic character of Lullwater.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) proposes to build the Hope Lodge next to the Mason Transplant House, located adjacent to the University Apartments. The Health Sciences Center purchased five acres of University Apartments property several years ago to develop the Hope Lodge and two Mason Transplant Houses, the second of which has not yet been built. The 35,000-square-foot Hope Lodge would be owned and operated by ACS, but Emory would retain ownership of the land through a long-term lease agreement, and ownership of the building would revert to Emory after the lease expires or if the building's function ever changed. Hope Lodge would provide free lodging for up to 30 out-of-town cancer patients who don't need hospitalization, but must remain in Atlanta for cancer treatments for periods of three days to six months. The average stay would be about three weeks. Space also would be available for patients' family members.
Plans called for the Hope Lodge to be built next to the recently opened Mason Transplant House on a wooded tract that includes a ravine adjacent to the back, or east side, of Lullwater. The Hope Lodge was recommended for approval last year by the Senate's Campus Development Committee, but that committee considers the appropriateness of a proposed facilities' programmatic functions, not its environmental or ecological impact, according to committee chair Ray DuVarney.
Following the Campus Development Committee recommendation, the project was approved by the Trustees' Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds Committee and the Executive Committee.
For various reasons, however, the project was not brought before the Senate Committee on the Environment for consideration until last October, well after the Campus Development Committee vote and the expenditure of $250,000 in architects' fees. Russ Seagren, director of Campus Planning and Construction, said the confusion surrounding the Committee on the Environment's role in the project is the probable result of several factors: the land in question was not owned by the University at the time of the 1986 Murdy-Carter Report, which assessed Emory's forest land and made recommendations for its usage, and was not included in those recommendations; the land is not included in the 1991 update of Emory's campus master plan; and the Hope Lodge is not an Emory project per se, but an ACS project, and the architects involved are employed by the ACS, not Emory.
The Committee on the Environment voted in October to recommend that the Senate approve a resolution opposing "the present siting of the proposed Hope Lodge, while still supporting the ideals of the lodge." The Committee's proposal suggested two alternative sites be considered: one on the opposite side of the Mason Transplant House from the original site, closer to Clairmont Road; and the other near the original site but upland and away from the tree line of that site.
After nearly two hours of presentations on the Hope Lodge and a discussion of the situation, the Senate voted 24-0 (with three abstentions) to recommend approval of the Committee on the Environment's resolution. That recommendation now goes to President Bill Chace for his consideration. If Chace concurs with the Senate action, the recommendation will go the Board of Trustees for a final vote. If Chace does not favorably recommend the Senate action, another vote of the full Senate with a two-thirds majority would be required to send the recommendation directly to the trustees for their consideration.
Law Professor Bill Buzbee, chair of the Committee on the Environment, said the Committee recommended changing the site because building on the original site not only would necessitate the cutting of "high-quality" forest area, but also would have placed a large, imposing building immediately adjacent to Lullwater, forever changing the character of the wooded trails where many Emory community members walk and jog. Buzbee said that building on either of the two alternative sites suggested by the Committee on the Environment would pose no threat to the current character of Lullwater.
Assistant Vice President for Health Affairs Gary Teal, who also is a member of the Hope Lodge Steering Committee, said that at the group's last meeting, ACS officials expressed strong opposition to the idea of changing the original site.
After several Senate members expressed concern over the possibility of ACS pulling out of the project, President Chace told Senate members that "it is bootless to imagine what the American Cancer Society will do. The Senate should resolve its own feelings about this matter."