From pow­er­ing cities to em­pow­er­ing health­care providers

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - —Joseph Conn

More than a third of the re­spon­dents to this year’s Con­struc­tion & De­sign Sur­vey are work­ing on build­ing ren­o­va­tion and con­ver­sion projects.

Many of them in­volve trans­form­ing the empty husks of for­mer gro­cery stores, ware­houses and small—or even some big-box— re­tail out­lets into med­i­cal of­fice build­ings, free-stand­ing clin­ics, emer­gency cen­ters and other health­care venues.

“A lot of our clients in health­care are mov­ing away from build­ing new,” said Sonny Hamizadeh, an ar­chi­tect and the na­tional se­nior ex­ec­u­tive for health­care com­mer­cial con­struc­tion with Toledo, Ohio-based SSOE. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re still build­ing new, but if it’s more eco­nom­i­cal (to ren­o­vate), a lot of peo­ple are go­ing in that di­rec­tion.”

Two whop­per remodeling jobs— one in Prov­i­dence, R.I., and the other in Toledo—are in a class by them­selves.

In Prov­i­dence, two Rhode Is­land nurs­ing schools plan to move into the lower floors of the mas­sive for­mer Nar­ra­gansett Elec­tric/Na­tional Grid power plant in time for the fall se­mes­ter.

Two years ago, the va­cant shell—a hulk­ing brick, con­crete and steel struc­ture on the Prov­i­dence River— would have made a bet­ter set­ting for a post-apoca­lypse sci-fi movie. It

had op­er­ated as a power plant be­tween 1912 and the early 1990s, but was then aban­doned.

Also later this year, eight-hospi­tal ProMed­ica Health Sys­tem will con­sol­i­date its of­fice space and move 1,000 work­ers from dozens of scat­tered sites to one main cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in down­town Toledo.

The ProMed­ica project in­volves

remodeling a bank build­ing and con­nect­ing it to a gut­ted and re­pur­posed 19th cen­tury land­mark steam plant along the Maumee River. The plant once pro­vided heat to down­town busi­nesses.

Both for­mer in­dus­trial struc­tures are on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. Their re­newals rep­re­sent mile­stones in re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts un­der­way in their re­spec­tive cities.

The Prov­i­dence over­haul is part of a $220 mil­lion ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment project in the city’s his­toric jew­elry man­u­fac­tur­ing district. It in­cludes a planned 270-unit col­lege res­i­dency com­plex and a 770-space park­ing garage, al­ready com­pleted.

“The in­te­rior spa­ces are re­ally spec­tac­u­lar,” said Rick Kobus, se­nior prin­ci­pal with the Bos­ton-area ar­chi­tec­tural firm Tsoi/Kobus As­so­ciates, which de­signed the retro­fit for Bos­ton­based de­vel­oper CV Prop­er­ties.

Some of the build­ing’s orig­i­nal steel roof trusses and even a still-func­tional over­head crane were kept to show­case its—and the neigh­bor­hood’s—in­dus­trial past. “Wher­ever we could pre­serve the orig­i­nal con­struc­tion and ex­pose it, we did,” Kobus said.

Brown Univer­sity’s ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices will oc­cupy roughly half the build­ing’s 266,000 square feet of space, in­clud­ing two newly added up­per floors. The lower floors will be oc­cu­pied by the nurs­ing schools at Rhode Is­land Col­lege and the Univer­sity of Rhode Is­land, both pub­licly funded.

The lat­ter are call­ing their space the Rhode Is­land Nurs­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter. “Both have nurs­ing pro­grams and they both have sim­u­la­tion cen­ters on their cam­puses,” said Michael Walker-Jones, the ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter’s act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “This is a state-of-the-art sim­u­la­tion cen­ter. When you get up to the class­room, this looks like a hospi­tal with reg­u­lar pa­tient beds and an ICU. We even have an apart­ment built so we can train our nurs­ing as­sis­tants in home care.”

SSOE is a sub­con­trac­tor to Dal­las­based HKS on the Toledo project, which re­quired not only re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Daniel Burn­ham-de­signed steam plant, but also de­mo­li­tion of a pair of de­te­ri­o­rated, 220-foot brick smoke­stacks, re­plac­ing them with two thin­ner, shorter steel repli­cas that passed muster with state preser­va­tion of­fi­cials.

The build­ing had been va­cant

since 1985, ac­cord­ing to a de­scrip­tion on the HKS web­site. The project in­cludes a new park­ing garage and ren­o­va­tions to a prom­e­nade along the Maumee, a pop­u­lar venue for strolling and sum­mer events, Hamizadeh said.

Be­cause of the steam plant’s his­toric sta­tus, “The en­ve­lope of the build­ing is crit­i­cal; it has to be saved,” Hamizadeh said. The in­te­rior could be gut­ted, how­ever, en­sur­ing the build­ing’s “in­te­rior space has the com­fort level” visi­tors and of­fice work­ers re­quire, Hamizadeh said.

Two nurs­ing schools will be mov­ing into a mam­moth river­front build­ing in Prov­i­dence, R.I., that op­er­ated as a power plant be­gin­ning in the early 1900s.

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