Medical District taking shape as PCI complex nears completion

Supporters say PCI project already a success, but few other new projects in designated district

A project that started in controversy is now near completion. The Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Medical Mall opens for patients Monday, April 15.

The $47 million medical project required closing two blocks of busy Second Avenue SE in early 2011. And construction also removed a historic church on Third Avenue SE to make way for parking for the complex. But with some of the controversy and complaints winding down, supporters say it’s time to see what the project will do for the city’s new Medquarter Regional Medical District.

That medical district, finalized by the city in early 2012, comprises an approximately 50-block area anchored on either end by St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center. It’s an area where the city expects more medical-related development to occur in the future.

But aside from one restaurant opened in the area, due in part to expected crowds of workers and patients, there aren’t any new medical projects to announce yet.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said creating a true medical district was the idea when talk of the PCI expansion first began. But, he said, it’s premature to judge how the concept is working before PCI opens. The mayor said five, ten or even 15 years may be needed to see the true scope of any transformation.

Inside the PCI complex, located at Second Avenue & 10th Street SE, workers are still pushing to finish everything before the deadline. But even before the doors open, owners are calling the project a success.

Mike Sundall, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa CEO, said he would have been satisfied to have half the available rental space inside the complex leased before the opening. But PCI has done a lot better than that.

“We have about 75,000 square feet of the 221,000 square feet up for lease. All but 12,000 square feet is spoken for and leased now,” Sundall said.

Sundall said on opening day, about 500 people will work at the large medical complex, including about 80 physicians.

As for the medical district, the board that oversees the area is in the process of hiring a national consultant to put together a master plan.

Board vice chairman John Albert said when that’s done, members will have an idea what should come next.

“Possibly some residential,” Albert said, "but we’re really just in the start of it, and that master plan will give us some guidelines.”

Other ideas for future plans in the medical district might not have a health connection. Albert said a hotel or general office space could also be part of the district.

Mayor Corbett said when you add up PCI’s investment and other recent development work in the district, he’s convinced it’s already a success too.

“Last fall, we dedicated the Hall Perrine Cancer Center (Mercy Medical Center) at $25 million, and the city did about $13 million of improvements to streets, sewer, utilities and the parking ramp that will be paid for by PCI property taxes. That’s about $75 million in about a year and a half, “ Corbett said.

The mayor said he still fields the occasional complaint about closing Second Avenue for the medical complex. But he said those complaints are fading away.

Anyone who wants to see how the massive medical project turned out can attend an open house for the public. The open house is set for Saturday, April 6 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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