Health systems' Midtown revitalization plan takes shape

Posted on May 31, 2012

A half-billion-dollar redevelopment plan to revitalize another part of the Midtown Detroit landscape took concrete steps forward with new information released Wednesday by its major anchors about the project and other nearby developments.

The plan involving the Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Medical Center and Cardinal Health of Dublin, Ohio, is part of a much larger collaboration with Wayne State University and others to revitalize areas between Detroit’s downtown and Midtown.

“We are starting to fill in all the gaps between Midtown and downtown,” said Robert Riney, president and chief operating officer of the Henry Ford Health System. “This pushes those boundaries further.”

The joint effort will build a $25-million medical warehouse in the area just west of the Ford and Lodge freeways, on land pockmarked with railroad tracks and empty petroleum and manufacturing buildings.

Henry Ford said it expects to spend $500 million to purchase aging or vacant properties and to revitalize a 300-acre section south of West Grand Boulevard, across from Henry Ford’s flagship hospital.

About a third of the land is owned by the City of Detroit.

The health system said it hopes to get private investors to triple the total investment of the efforts south of the hospital on West Grand Boulevard at the Lodge freeway, said Bill Schramm, senior vice president for strategic business development for Henry Ford.

Another project moving forward is the renovation of a vacant 17-apartment building at Sterling and Ferry Park, south of West Grand Boulevard. Schramm said several developers have said they might want to add additional rental units to the project, on land south of the site.

At the same time, the Henry Ford health system is exploring the interest of developers in building a new senior living center in the area, Riney said. Longtime Henry Ford hospital employees suggested that the health system consider senior housing, so they can continue to live in the community and volunteer at the hospital, he said.

Earlier this month, the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approved tax incentives for the warehouse project.

KircoManix, a Troy company, would construct a 273,520-square-foot medical supply, repackaging and distribution warehouse center.

The location near the Lodge and I-75 freeways, coupled with business from the Henry Ford and DMC systems, helped persuade Cardinal Health to relocate to Midtown, Riney said.

The move will transfer 140 jobs to Detroit from Romulus, where Cardinal Health has a distribution center. Pending city approvals, construction will begin later this year, to be completed by late 2013. Henry Ford officials are working with the company and a development firm to ensure that the building doesn’t look too industrial and blends in with a broader revitalization plan, Riney said.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for more job creation,” said Sue Mosey, president of the nonprofit civic group Midtown Detroit Inc. “It demonstrates a huge commitment on the part of the anchors to participate fully in the development of the neighborhood.”

Mosey noted that many smaller players, including entrepreneurs, are helping to enliven the Midtown district. “Certainly, lots of the small pieces have contributed as well. But clearly from a jobs perspective, the anchors really drive the job creation in the neighborhood.”

The three main anchors in Midtown — DMC, Henry Ford, and WSU — have about 30,000 employees in the area.

They each actively recruited employees and students to participate in Live Midtown incentives to encourage their employees to live in the district.

Mosey, who administers the Midtown project along with the related program, Live Downtown, said the programs have approved about 500 applications. They help employees of the anchors and several other Detroit employers with rent, home purchases and renovations as long as they are moving to the downtown and Midtown areas.

Other projects pioneered by anchor institutions in the Midtown area include one announced recently by WSU to transform the former Dalgleish Cadillac dealership building in Midtown into a $93-million biomedical research center, the largest such project in WSU’s history. Plans call for WSU to extensively remodel the existing 127,000-square-foot building and add another 70,000 square feet of space to the site.

The center would house programs in cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders — such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity — systems biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, behavioral translational science and biomedical engineering. Henry Ford also plans to move its bone and joint center and motion analysis lab to the center.

Ford and DMC are undergoing major on-campus expansion projects as well.

DMC is building a $78-million, five-story heart hospital on its Midtown campus as well as a $43-million outpatient pediatric facility.

Henry Ford is also spending $500 million to renovate its hospital, for a total of $1 billion.

By Patricia Anstett and John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press