Programmable medical space

April 25, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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One of the few major privately owned medical construction projects underway in Grand Rapids these days is going to make the existing building at 245 Cherry St. SE much larger, and “programmable.”

Come February next year, when the $17 million addition/renovation is completed and all of its medical practice occupants are in, the building known as 245 Cherry will be “a lot more of a programmable building, which is quite unusual,” according to Mike Corby, executive vice president at Integrated Architecture, which is designing the new space.

Corby said medical office space tends to be difficult to re-do, “especially on a multi-story building, so the building will actually have an interstitial space” to make any future re-dos easier.

Another way to describe it is: It will have a raised floor, under which is the power, communications, plumbing and HVAC mechanicals.

In a conventional building, that hidden infrastructure is typically overhead, so a major change in the floor plan typically disrupts two floors — the one being renovated and the space above — when that floor needs to be torn up to access the infrastructure, according to Corby.

The typical medical office also has a higher concentration of plumbing, adding to the challenge of reconfiguring a conventional building design, he said.

Corby said the “programmability probably means nothing to John Q. Public, but to those who understand medical buildings, having a higher degree of programmability is huge,” added Corby.

The structural steel for the 50,000-square-foot new addition started going up last week, which will bring total square footage at the three-story building to about 86,000 square feet, according to Brian Sikma of Highpoint Real Estate & Development.

Sikma said the $17 million investment covers both renovation of the existing building and the addition. The construction manager on the 245 Cherry project is Elzinga & Volkers.

“Technically, Highpoint Real Estate is the developer,” said Sikma. “We are also a partner in the project under a separate LLC, and partners with Advantage Health physicians and some of the specialists that occupy the building. Saint Mary’s is also a partner in the project.”

“This really has been a collaborative effort with the hospital and key physician groups,” he said, noting that “the physicians are the majority owners.”

Sikma said Highpoint and its partners have owned the building since it was built about 20 years ago.

Ann Abrahams, a regional operations director for the physicians’ group which is now officially known as Advantage Health/Saint Mary’s Medical Group, said there is “a lot of shifting and juggling going on” at 245 Cherry, “but when it’s all said and done, the whole building, both the existing building and the new addition, will be full.”

About 90 people (physicians and support staff) who are part of Advantage Health/Saint Mary’s Medical Group will ultimately be working in the building.  Those include Weigh to Wellness, the cosmetic dermatology practice, Heritage Pediatrics and Family Practice, and the OB practice.

“The whole second floor of the new building will be the Saint Mary’s sleep lab,” she added. That is a clinic owned by Saint Mary’s hospital itself. Other practices that are not part of Advantage Health but have been in the building and will still be located in some part of it when the construction is finished, according to Abrahams, include a general surgery practice and Hand & Plastic Surgery, which includes Elite Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Fredric Reyelts, one of the medical directors at Advantage Health/Saint Mary’s Medical Group, said the group is “closely affiliated” with other medical practices at 245 Cherry, including West Michigan Surgical, Urology Associates and a physical therapy clinic. About 25 of the Advantage Health group’s physicians will occupy the building as well.

245 Cherry is in close proximity to Saint Mary’s Health Care, as well as other relatively new health care facilities. It is across the street from Saint Mary’s new $60 million Hauenstein Center and the Lacks Cancer Center.

Not far away on Cherry at LaGrave Avenue will be the Heart of the City Health Center being built by Cherry Street Health Services, an 80,000-square-foot building.

“We kind of lined this up to be very easy for our patients,” said Reyelts. Their organization is more of a regional one, he said, with about 12 locations throughout greater Grand Rapids, “so we try to centralize a lot of those services” that aren’t required at each of the 12 locations, such as general surgery and dermatology.

Corby said the expanded 245 Cherry will not be LEED-certified “but it’s going to be sustainably designed; a lot of the building systems are energy efficient.”

“That’s nothing new to us as a firm, because that’s pretty much what we do,” added Corby.

Energy costs, in particular, are higher for HVAC infrastructure in the ceiling, he said. Conditioned air coming from above has to penetrate a concentration of warmer air.

“So the air has to be colder,” said Corby, “maybe up to six degrees colder, just to get through hot air. It’s just not an efficient system.”

Corby said “programmability” is the future.

“You’re going to see more buildings done that way,” he added.

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