Developer sought for medical office building project

The Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University has issued a request for qualifications for a project to develop a medical office building to be constructed near the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

The building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on WCU’s 344-acre West Campus as part of the university’s Millennial Initiative.

Expected to encompass at least 30,000 square feet of space, the building will become home to a mix of office space for health care professionals, along with space for health-related businesses, said Tony Johnson, executive director for the Millennial Initiative.

“We envision this building as a hub of collaboration, where WCU faculty and students will work alongside health care professionals,” Johnson said. “The health care practitioners who locate there will help meet the medical needs of the people of the region, and simultaneously will provide hands-on learning experiences for our students and opportunities for professional practice and research for our faculty.”

The request for qualifications is the initial step in the process of selecting a full-service developer to design, finance, construct and manage a medical office building or similar specialty medical center. Selection of the developer is expected to take place in June, with construction to begin as early as January 2016 and occupancy of the building in early 2017.

The medical office building is anticipated to be the first of five phases of building projects designed to complement the Health and Human Sciences Building as part of the long-range planning for the development of the West Campus, Johnson said.

The area around the HHS Building is expected to become the hub of a health sciences cluster, which will expand collaborative opportunities with partners such as private clinics, medical device companies and other health-related businesses. The partnerships will be intended to enhance hands-on student learning, foster collaborative research and promote development of scientific and technological innovations with potential commercial applications, and provide needed services to the community.

Completion of the medical office building will represent an additional collaboration between WCU and private health care partners. Last September, WestCare Health launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the HHS Building. The clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, WestCare opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, joining Carolina West Sports Medicine, which provides care to the community and collaborates clinically with WCU rehabilitation and sports medicine faculty, staff and students.

Opened in the fall of 2012, the Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility built on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired by WCU in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.

The medical office building project is made possible because the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013 endorsed a proposal to lease the “millennial campus” tract to the university’s Endowment Fund, a move designed to enable WCU to respond rapidly and nimbly to potential public-private economic development opportunities.

The lease proposal was subsequently approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the governor and the Council of State. It enables WCU to follow a strategic economic development model similar to what is in use at other UNC institutions, including N.C. State University for its Centennial Campus and UNC Charlotte for its Charlotte Research Initiative, where institutional endowment funds already owned tracts prior to their designation as “millennial campuses.”

For more information about the Millennial Initiative, contact Tony Johnson at 828-227-2596 or tonyjohnson@wcu.edu.
Developers interested in the medical office building project can find the request for qualifications online at http://www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/RFQMOBFINAL11215.pdf.

The Health and Human Sciences Building serves as an anchor for a health sciences cluster on campus.

The Health and Human Sciences Building serves as an anchor for a health sciences cluster on campus.