Metro Closes On Land For Health Care Village

April 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Completing acquisition of acreage south of Grand Rapids enabled Metropolitan Health Corp. to begin searching for partners for a “health care village” it envisions developing.

The suburban health care campus would initially consist of facilities and services that do not require state approval. The large exception is Metro Hospital, the health system’s 238-bed osteopathic hospital in Grand Rapids. Present state rules prohibit hospitals from relocating more than two miles from their present location in markets deemed to have an excess of beds.

As Metro works to have that rule changed so it can build a new hospital that would anchor the proposed health care village, the health system plans to proceed with formulating plans for the remaining 150-acre site on Byron Center Road near where the new South Beltline freeway is being built.

With the land secured, Metro will now focus on finding the right partners for the health care village concept that was first unveiled nearly a year ago.

“We’re really at the very beginnings of trying to get down to what will be there,” Metro Health Vice President of Marketing Jim Childress said. “We’re going to start actively pursuing people who want to be part of this and pursuing ideas.”

Metro executives are a long way from deciding what elements to include in the health care village, although ideas floated in the past include a long-term care center, an outpatient and ambulatory medical clinic, as well as related services such as a medical equipment business. The goal is to recruit partners for projects that complement each other and match the concept of a health care village that offers a myriad of services concentrated in one location.

“It’s got to fit within the concept,” Childress said.

An ad-hoc committee of the Michigan Certificate of Need Commission, the state panel that sets standards on regulations governing health care projects, is scheduled to begin work in March on rewriting the two-mile rule. The commission formed the committee at the request of Metro Health, which wants to build a 200-bed, $155 million hospital at the Wyoming site, 10 miles away from its present location on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.

Metro Health decided to close on acquisition of the property in mid-January, even though it could take months before any rule change is finalized, then several more months to seek and secure final approval to build a new hospital.

The feeling was that with Metro continuing to grow and running out of room at its present campus, it was time to proceed with planning and developing the amenities of the health care village that do not require state approval.

“We felt that the time had come for us to begin the process of fleshing out what this village will become,” Childress said.

Even with the land secured, Metro won’t begin building at the site anytime soon. The earliest anything could occur is 18 months, Childress said.                       

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