The Medical Center of Central Georgia plans 7-story, $86 million office building

A planned $86 million construction project by The Medical Center of Central Georgia for a seven-story medical office building will not only accommodate the hospital’s cancer center, but also other physician offices.

The proposed 290,000-square-foot building would be built at 752 Hemlock St. on the corner of First Street, just across Hemlock from the hospital’s Luce Heart Institute. The hospital filed a certificate of need application last month with the state for the new building.

“The reason it’s seven (stories), we don’t have a lot of buildable square footage down here, so when one builds, one has to make sure you are covering your bases for the future,” said CEO Don Faulk. “You don’t get many redos.”

The building will likely be called the Center for Specialty Medicine, he said.

Since the hospital is not applying for new medical services, Faulk said he doesn’t expect any problems with getting state approval.

The proposed location currently has some old buildings, including one that housed the former county health department, which would be torn down, he said. A few doctors’ offices would need to be relocated.

“This property presented a good opportunity,” Faulk said. “It is to address the cancer center outpatient needs and a parking deck is not a small piece of it. With outpatient, you have to have the appropriate parking to go with it.”

The parking deck, as designed now, would be about $10 million of the total $86 million project, he said.

The proposed project would be the second medical office building project at the same intersection. Catty-corner from the heart center, a three-story 1950s building was torn down and a new four-story general practice medical office building is under construction. The structure will tie into the 682 Hemlock office building in a more efficient way, Faulk said. This building will house a large cardiology group in addition to other doctor’s offices.

While the new buildings might not immediately bring in people new to the Macon area, the new construction indicates the Medical Center is planning for future growth, said Robbo Hatcher, 2012 chairman of the Macon Economic Development Commission. Also, Hatcher said the importance of the Medical Center to Middle Georgia is significant to the community and to the local economy.

“Having a successful, vibrant medical center in our community is good on a lot of different levels,” he said. “It obviously provides a lot of high-paying, direct jobs and supports a lot of supporting industry, (such as) other companies that support the Medical Center, from people who sell and service the equipment to those who provide uniforms.”

Access to good medical facilities helps when the MEDC and others are trying to attract other industries to Bibb County, Hatcher said.

“We see having a successful medical center as a plus just on all levels in the community, and growth at the Medical Center is good for Macon,” he said.

While the hospital’s application to the state is for $86 million, given the current issues facing health care, the hospital wants to “make sure we are sizing it right,” Faulk said.

The cancer center is a core piece of it,” he said. “The piece we are sort of building for the future is the office building piece. Obviously it would be for physicians now, but it would take the pressure off existing office buildings for the future.”

Some of the doctors who would move into the new building would relocate from existing offices on the hospital’s campus, which would free up the spaces they leave for other medical uses.

If the state approves the funding, and Faulk said it was fairly routine, construction would likely begin in early 2013 with a mid-2014 opening.

“We built the first (medical) office building in 1978,” he said. “We don’t want to get flat-footed on strategy, and so we are trying to be reasonably conservative but be proactive enough not to be behind the curve.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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