Healthcare: Hospital expansion could help spur medical district

by Stephen Feller for Sun Sentinel

As city officials in Margate have spent time working for a commercial and residential development near city hall, the beginnings of a medical district has slowly taken shape in the north part of the city over the last few years.

The start of a full cardiac surgical program at Northwest Medical Center last month and consideration by the city of plans for a 30,000-square-foot expansion of the hospital are the next pieces of an organic change in the area.

The expansion, which will be home to the hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, will include two open heart operating room suites, a cardiovascular intensive care unit and a cardiovascular progressive care unit, said Dr. Jonathan Hoffberger, the cardiac surgeon at Northwest who is heading up the expansion and creation of the new unit.

As a result of the new section of the hospital, most of what drivers see along State Road 7 will change, according to the plans and City Planner Ben Ziskal.

Gone will be Frontage Road, which offers access off of busy State Road 7 and into the hospital, and in its place will be reworked parking lots and walkways that will connect parts of the hospital, he said.

As the project moves ahead, there remain several properties north of the hospital which could be snapped up or have been considered for hospital construction in the past.

One property, on the northeast corner of State Road 7 and 31st Street, has been considered in recent years for the construction of a hospital annex, according to Michael Shooster, who runs 777 Properties, which owns the land.

In 2006, Shooster said the hospital worked with his company and an architect on the annex concept, which would have included a four-story office building and eight-story parking garage.

Not long after renderings of the project were completed, however, the hospital backed away from the project.

Already open near the hospital are two medical office buildings on the east side of State Road 7, which Ziskal said were conceived one right after the other as they filled with tenants so quickly.

The dialysis center just south of those buildings, other already-existing medical office buildings, and a new Walgreen’s under construction on the corner of State Road 7 and 31st Street are pushing a concept that has surged ahead over the last several years.

Economic development has been the reason for discussion of development in the city, and Northwest’s new cardiac program certainly could do that as it will require even more new staff when the expansion goes online.

Hoffberger said the hospital already has been hiring nurses, doctors and staff that are experienced in the services that Northwest will be offering as part of the program.

Though Florida Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes offers some of the same cardiac procedures, several new minimally invasive ones – including valve replacements and some bypass surgeries – will make Northwest an attractive choice for doctors and patients in search of those services.

The potential for this, and existing services and facilities in the area, to attract even more offices and uses such as medical supply companies is significant, said Ziskal, who is just beginning research into the potential for what such an area could be.

Mayor Joe Varsallone said he didn’t think the city had ever pursued medical business for the city, and has not focused on it for future development, but that it would be a good thing.

Though there are no other projects under city consideration at this point, he said the potential for this to be a business niche for the city must be explored because of its potential to attract new business and permanent residents for Margate.

“This could be an economic driver for the north end of the city,” Ziskal said. “We have 31 cities in this county that are all fighting for their own economic vitality and business base in order to have a hub of a certain type of business…If we have a high density of medical uses it could be that niche that we’re looking for.”

[sun-sentinel.com]

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