North Ottawa Looking Further North

May 14, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — The acquisition of acreage along the Ottawa-Muskegon county line gives North Ottawa Community Health System a site to carve out a far stronger presence in the northern portions of its market area.

The property provides the small Grand Haven health system a base to position and grow medical services in the future, as the population continues to grow in northern Ottawa County and southern Muskegon County.

The area from north of Grand Haven into southern Muskegon County has a rapidly growing residential base that North Ottawa Community Health hopes to tap in larger numbers by creating a medical campus at Pontaluna Road and Harvey Street. The site initially would house a primary-care medical practice, blood labs, diagnostic and rehabilitation services, and possibly a radiology unit.

The 20-acre site, now the home of a church, is located a mile south of The Lakes Mall and the developing retail corridor along Harvey Street that’s accompanied by large apartment developments. The site provides the ideal location for North Ottawa Community Health to better serve the Spring Lake market and to further penetrate nearby Fruitport and the Norton Shores area, President and CEO Mike Payne said.

Market research data shows that a “large percentage” of the people living in those markets have been there for less than five years and have not chosen a primary-care provider, Payne said.

“It’s a market that’s fluid as far as being able to get into it and influence where people go,” he said. “That’s a high-growth area and we’ve got a lot of opportunity there.”

While wanting to expand into and add market share, Payne said, the health system wants to avoid encroaching too far into Muskegon County, a market now controlled by Hackley Hospital and Mercy General Health Partners.

In addition to the 20 acres that were purchased this month for $1.4 million, North Ottawa Community Health is negotiating to buy an adjacent 7.8 acres of undeveloped land that would allow for the ultimate development of a larger medical campus in the future to serve existing markets.

North Ottawa Community Health over the next six to eight months will plan out the immediate medical services it will offer at the new site. Payne hopes the physician practice can open by mid-2005.

In planning further uses for the land, the health system may look to partner with providers of complementary services for future joint ventures and developments well into the future.

“We’ve got kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and have a blank sheet of paper we can use,” Payne said. “That’s an ideal opportunity to start partnering more with people than anything we’ve ever done.”

The acquisition marks the second strategic move North Ottawa Community Health has made in the northern portion of the market in recent months. The health system is presently seeking state approval to replace a 64-bed nursing home with a new $6.1 millionfacility that’s planned for a 13-acre site in Spring Lake, to add 20 skilled nursing beds, and to build an adjacent $1.2 million, eight-bed hospice care unit.

The health system eventually wants to add assisted-living and independent-living units at the site, creating a “senior campus” that offers varying levels of residential settings and care.    

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