Women's Health Center Takes Shape On The Hill

February 12, 2007
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When the 108,000-square-foot Women’s Health Center of West Michigan opens in the spring of 2008, a long-held vision will come to fruition for some Grand Rapids obstetricians and gynecologists.

With its location in the new Mid Towne Village, just south of I-196 along Michigan Street, the center’s developers say it will bring women’s health care to the forefront of the evolving “Medical Mile.” The center is said to be one of a kind in West Michigan and one of only a handful of comprehensive care centers in the nation focused solely on women’s health.

The $25 million center will provide a complete continuum of medical care and services, including obstetrics and gynecology, specialty care in high-risk obstetrics, urogynecology, infertility, psychiatry, physical therapy and plastic surgery. Ancillary services will include ultrasound, mammography, bone density screening and lactation consulting. The center will have a lab, pharmacy and medical spa, and there’s also talk of a “mature women’s” center within the facility.

The idea of a comprehensive care center for women had been bandied about for at least a decade and some attempts were made to get it off the ground, but it never happened, said Adam Blickley, M.D., partner in Newton, Frank & Blickley PC physician group.

Blickley said this time around, the idea likely took hold because of all the changes on the local health care scene, such as the movement of OB-GYN services from the former Blodgett Hospital to Spectrum’s downtown campus, the gathering momentum on Michigan Street hill, and the national trend toward establishing women’s health centers in major metropolitan markets.

Blickley and others believed the region needed and could support such a center and that it would afford physicians specializing in women’s health the opportunity to work together.

“There’s a synergy in working with generalists and specialists under one roof, and there’s a benefit in the multi-disciplinary approach to patients,” he said. “Our proximity to the hospital allows for convenience in coordinating hospital care and office care. Our proximity to the MSU West Michigan Medical School and the Van Andel Institute will allow us to advance clinical research in our facility.”

Most of the services that will be offered by the center already are available in the region but for the most part are scattered around. Having them all under one roof will provide more convenience for patients and make it easier to coordinate medical services in advance. There’s also discussion of a post-menopausal assessment center within the building.

“Patients will be able to schedule a mammogram, blood work and bone density test in conjunction with their physicals,” he said. “Our goal is a multi-disciplinary approach.”

Partners, investors and majority owners in the project are Newton, Frank & Blickley PC, Grand Valley Gynecologists PC, Grand Rapids Fertility, Knollcrest OB-GYN Associates PC, Primary Care Partners, Keystone Pharmacy, plastic surgeon Benjamin Rechner M.D., Esthete Spa for Women, and Michael Garrett, president and CEO of Pinnacle Construction Group. There are some passive investors, as well, Blickley said. Pinnacle Construction is also the project developer and contractor. Non-investor tenants include Spectrum Health Mammography and Lab, and Baby Beloved lactation specialists.

The first floor of the center will have space for retail, such as a deli and gift shop. Blickley said some of the space would be ideal for a maternity boutique, children’s clothing store and bookstore, among other things. The center will also have its own 500-car parking deck.

“The building was designed with input from women,” Garrett pointed out. “We had focus groups, and we re-did the design several times so that the aesthetics of the building would appeal to women. It will feel almost like a medical health spa.”

Garrett said he’s investing his own money because he believes the Women’s Health Center is a great project. He said that as an investor, he was attracted to the project because of the quality of the doctors involved and the opportunities presented by the growing health care community here.

“The Michigan Medical Mile is becoming a key part of our economy, and being able to be a part of that is very exciting,” he said. “They’re creating all these medical specialties along the Medical Mile, and this is the one that’s going to be dedicated to women.”

The Women’s Health Center of West Michigan will be a “landmark” facility that is easily identifiable, Blickley said, and its centralized location, nearness to the highway and parking availability will be added conveniences for patients.

“One of the challenges on Michigan Street Hill is land price and parking,” Blickley observed. “What we were able to do and what made this a go for us is that we acquired and assembled the property ourselves.”

Partners in the project originally bought a portion of Mid Towne Village but weren’t able to make parking work on just the one piece of property. So they acquired eight adjoining individual home sites and put parking on those sites so there would be an ample parking ratio for the building.

“We’ve been able to put a team together and do some unique things that have made us competitive and viable on the hill,” Blickley said. “I think we’re the best bargain on the hill.”

The developers broke ground on the project in May 2006. Blickley and his physician partners will move from their current offices at 710 Kenmoor to the Women’s Health Center upon its completion in 2008.

Grand Valley Gynecologists PC, which currently has offices on Breton Road in Kentwood, will relocate those offices to the center, as well, said Douglas Van Drie, M.D. The Grand Valley gynecologists also do obstetrics, but it’s hard to cover deliveries from Kentwood, he noted. The move downtown moves the practice closer to the hospitals and to all the women’s health services offered at Spectrum’s Butterworth campus, he said. Grand Valley Gynecologists will expand its pelvic floor rehabilitation service when it opens its new offices in the Women’s Health Center.

“Our goal is to be a referral for pelvic floor problems and incontinence problems that have not been corrected elsewhere,” Van Drie said. “We want to be a source for physicians in the western part of the state to send their patients.”

In fact, most of the physician groups moving into the center will make it the primary or exclusive location of their practices. About half of the space is investor owned and the remaining space will be available for lease. As of early December, 60 percent of the space was pre-leased to both investors and non-investors, according to Garrett. He said the investors hope to have 100 percent occupancy when the center opens. HQX

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