A rendering depicts a building that will be constructed for psychiatric care along Jefferson Street across from Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Roanoke’s planning commission on Monday endorsed zoning changes and a street vacation needed for Carilion Clinic to move forward on a $300 million expansion of hospital and parking facilities along South Jefferson Street.

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend approval of a rezoning and the closure of a block of Crystal Spring Avenue, with commissioners Kit Hale and Pamela Smith absent.

The Roanoke City Council, which must give final approval to the applications, likely will take the matters up at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18.

The commission’s vote followed a public hearing during which three people spoke, one in support of the project and two with concerns about traffic.

Carilion’s plan involves three major projects.

The largest of them is a 486,000-square-foot expansion of Roanoke Memorial Hospital that will match the height of the current hospital. The wing will be dedicated to emergency and cardiovascular services. It will sit above two to three levels of an underground parking garage, according to Carilion’s applications to the commission.

On the other side of Jefferson Street, the 85,000-square-foot behavioral health hospital will be replaced with a 160,000-square-foot building at the corner of Jefferson and McClanahan streets. It will include a separate emergency room for behavioral health patients.

A parking garage on Crystal Spring Avenue will be expanded by several hundred spaces into the area between the new behavioral health hospital and the cancer center.

The garage might include some office space on the top floor, and the facade of the structure facing Jefferson Street will be designed with the appearance of an office building rather than a parking garage.

A pedestrian bridge over Jefferson Street will connect the two sides of Carilion’s campus.

None of Monday’s speakers opposed Carilion’s expansion.

“I know that it’s going to be noisy, I know it’s going to be dusty,” said Mark Frye, who lives across from the behavioral health center. “But this is going to be a win-win for Roanoke and I fully support this project.”

Barbara Duerk, president of Neighbors in South Roanoke , raised questions about the inconvenience of closing Crystal Spring between McClanahan Street and Evans Mill Road.

Both she and George Vogel , an attorney with an office nearby on McClanahan, observed that many Carilion employees drive in from southwest Roanoke County and get to the Carilion complex via that block of Crystal Spring.

“If you close that to traffic, then where is it going to go?” Duerk asked.

Attorney Maryellen Goodlatte , who represented Carilion at the meeting, said a traffic analysis found that traffic will be “diffused” over a number of other streets.

The road closure is a key to the project, she said, because without it there won’t be room to develop necessary parking.

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Matt Chittum covers Roanoke City. A Roanoke native, he’s been at the Roanoke Times for more than two decades, having overcome an inauspicious start with a part-time clerical job.

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