A shared ceremony between Flagler Health+ and Palm Coast’s United Methodist Church marked a groundbreaking for each institution the morning of July 27 in North Palm Coast, digging out the biggest beachhead for St. Augustine’s Flagler Health+ in Flagler yet, and a long-awaited north campus for the church, currently located nearer the center of town off Belle Terre Parkway.
Flagler Health+ bought the land from Palm Coast’s United Methodist Church–some 7 acres at the corner of Matanzas Woods Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway. The new facility, dubbed a health village, will house an array of medical practices and services including a family practice, behavioral health services, orthopedics, specialty care, imaging and laboratory services. The health village–Flagler Health+’s direct challenge to AdventHealth Palm Coats’s hegemony in Flagler–will include Flagler County’s Care Connect+, a coordinating service that was initially created to support programs that aid residents who are mentally, physically, or financially suffering. Mental health services of most kinds have been woefully lacking in Flagler.
Flagler Health+ will be clearing the land for the health village this month. This is not quite the first development of Flagler Health+ in Palm Coast, and it may be just prelude to much vaster inroads. Flagler Health+ established an orthopedic and primary care practice in Palm Coast. Along with the plan for Flagler County’s first health village, Flagler Health+ also announced that 71 acres are under contract for an inpatient hospital on the side of US-1, at the corner of Palm Coast Parkway and US-1–not far distant from AdventHealth’s planned second hospital in Palm Coast, on Palm Coast Parkway.
Nevertheless, Flagler Health+ was a no-show at the groundbreaking–if for entirely justifiable reasons: “Flagler Health+ was unable to join this morning’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Flagler Health+ Village at Palm Coast as we continue to focus on caring for an increasing number of Covid-19 patients and stopping the spread of the virus during this new phase of the pandemic,” Flagler Health+ President & CEO Jason Barrett said. (The organization’s flagship hospital is in St. Augustine, and was previously known as Flagler Hospital, not to be confused what what used to be Florida Hospital Flagler, now AdventHealth Palm Coast.) “While we were disappointed to not be able to celebrate this significant moment in our organization’s history in the way we’d prefer, our duty lies in ensuring the safety and well-being of the community. Our construction timeline remains the same for the Flagler Health+ expansion into Palm Coast and we are extremely excited to bring our health village concept to area residents.”
That allowed the church to have the stage to itself, though its members broke ground Flagler Health+ too as they symbolically dug up the ceremonial vat of dirt dirt to represent the new church and school they will be building next door to the health village. The church, founded in 1979, acquired the land in 1999. The North Campus Committee of Palm Coast United Methodist Church began planning in 2019. The current church at 5200 Belle Terre Parkway, with its school, handle approximately 105 students. The new campus will be able to handle 160, “a very significant increase,” said Howard Holley, the Chair of Strategy and Community Relations Committee for Palm Coast United Methodist Church.
“There are things that we need to keep and there are things that we need to change, things that we need to broaden and things that we need to deepen,” Holley, unwittingly speaking in the rhythms of Ecclesiastes, said. “One of the things that we wanted to make sure we kept was our compassion. Our real feeling for the sacrifices and challenges that others may or may not have, and our ability to relieve them in some way to go out and make a difference.”
The street that will lead into the new campus and health village will be named after Larry Torino, chair of the North Campus Committee–and Flagler Beach’s planning director. “Larry said that he wasn’t leading us to the promised land. But that, that’s not true. He did,” Holley said, giving kudos to Torino for the idea to sell some of the land they owned to build a new church. Flagler Health+ bought two parcels after the first was bought by the Dollar General on Matanzas Parkway. “Three parcels of land. Without that happening, this day doesn’t happen,” said Holley. The United Methodist Church, the City of Palm Coast, and Flagler Health+ all supported the decision to name the street Torino Drive.
“If you came down US-1, you saw the construction going on in the communities being built there,” Holley said. “You came up Belle Terre, you saw the apartments and the land being cleared for apartments there. We’re in the midst of significant growth in Palm Coast, and it’s being called North Palm Coast. So there is a unique opportunity for our church to bring value to this community.” The United Methodist Church sharing land with health facilities aiming to help the community’s well being presumably adds that value.
Kevin James, a pastor of the church, stated that this will be, “an opportunity for spiritual ministry and health ministry combined, and it will make a difference because the growth area in Palm Coast is heading north.” (It’s not lost on anyone that Flagler Health+’s combination of physical and spiritual health mirrors AdventHealth’s approach: the two organizations are clearly in fierce competition down to their conceptual approaches.)
“One of the things that we discussed with them is that they have been doing medical villages, you know, they have one in Nocatee, they have another one in the Golf Hall of Fame,” Holley said of World Golf Village in St. Augustine. “So, in our discussion here we talked about this being more of a ‘wellness’ village than just a medical village, because we have the ability to meet both physical health, mental health, education, and spiritual health. So we see this as a unique wellness community and campus that is likely the only one of its kind in the Palm Coast region.”