With residential construction ramping up in downtown Tucson, two local nonprofits have joined forces to open what they say those new city dwellers need — a modern integrated health center.
HealthOn Broadway is set to open in January in leased space on the first floor of 1 W. Broadway — a 6-story building called One West on the southwest corner of Broadway and Stone Avenue, along the streetcar line.
The third to sixth floors of the building will be apartments and the second floor will be parking for residents, said Crystal McGuire-Moore of Presidio Management. McGuire-Moore is the designated broker for One West, which is being built by Caylor Design & Construction and designed by Engberg Anderson Architects. The health center is being designed by BWS Architects
The health center, which will be staffed to accommodate up to 7,000 patient visits per year, is a collaboration between Tucson Medical Center and El Rio Community Health Center, whose leaders have formed a joint venture called HealthOn Tucson. The joint venture will lease the health-center space from One West Broadway LLC, a local investment group.
HealthOn Broadway leaders say they are responding to existing and future downtown trends — more city dwellers, plus a growing group of millennials who work downtown and often don’t have a primary-care doctor.
Tucson Medical Center is the area’s largest and only remaining locally owned community hospital. El Rio is Southern Arizona’s largest community health center, with clinics across town.
The two have partnered since 2012 in Arizona Connected Care, an Accountable Care Organization — a group of partners giving coordinated care to Medicare patients as a way of keeping them out of the hospital and avoiding the duplication of services. HealthOn Tucson is an outgrowth of that partnership.
Leaders of both organizations say they share an intrigue in how to engage the community around health care.
“El Rio and TMC and other health providers are very cognizant that the residential base is growing, and it’s a very diverse base with a lot of diverse needs,” said Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.
“It’s just another piece in this successful puzzle that’s being assembled. … You are looking at a very different downtown in three years. We’re tracking about 22 projects right now in various stages.”
Most of those projects are residential. It only makes sense that services and amenities will follow the demographics, Keith said.
El Rio already has a strong presence downtown. It has a clinic at 839 W. Congress St., west of Interstate 10, also on the streetcar line, and recently relocated its administrative headquarters to the historic downtown Manning House, 450 W. Paseo Redondo.
But El Rio CEO Nancy Johnson says HealthOn Broadway will be different from its other sites because it’s an entirely new model.
“We’re seeing this space as being more creative and not really medically modeled,” Johnson said. “There will be a lot of rooms in there that we are calling dialogue talking rooms around health coaching and helping people improve their health and stay as healthy as possible.”
An example would be a “better backs” class based on the number of people they’ve spoken with battling back-strain issues, she said.
“I think it’s the model for where we are today and where we’re going to go,” Tucson Medical Center CEO Judy Rich said.
The new HealthOn Broadway facility will offer primary care during off-hours and Saturdays (7 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays), and will encourage patients to make it their “medical home” — the place they go to get primary care, project officials say. But if downtown workers have another medical home, they are welcome to get care at the new center too, officials said.
The 8,211-square-foot center also will offer lectures, health education and wellness coaching and will take advantage of technology, offering established patients appointments by Smartphone or desktop computer, self check-in and tools to take their own vital signs.
“It’s leveraging wonderful new technology and equipment and it’s hard to find that in this community right now,” Rich said.
Millennials, roughly ages 18-35, tend to have few health problems. Rich and Johnson say that’s an opportunity for a health center — keeping them healthy, helping them with long-term health and providing a place to get treated for the occasional acute illness.
“It’s very important, healthy or not, for everyone to have a primary-care provider or primary-care home,” Johnson said. “Just because you are healthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a relationship with a health-care system.”
At the moment there’s no plan for an on-site pharmacy, though some commonly used prescriptions will be on hand. Rather, patients can use the pharmacy at El Rio’s West Congress Street location, which delivers.
In addition to traditional clinical visits, blood draws and X-rays, patients can expect nontraditional treatments, too. Yoga, tai chi and other wellness and fitness activities will be offered, similar to what Tucson Medical Center offers at its 2-year-old, north-side wellness center, The Core, at the La Encantada shopping mall, at Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue.
Tucson Medical Center also has a nutrition partner downtown with the demo kitchen at chef Janos Wilder’s Carriage House event space, 125 S. Arizona Ave. That gives both an opportunity to reach the downtown market through healthy eating activities, like lunch-and-learn classes.
Changes in the health-care industry have more nonprofit health systems entering businesses where hospitals have not traditionally operated, a May 2016 Moody’s Investors Service report says.
The new ventures let hospitals “gain a foothold and expertise in new, but complementary businesses,” the report says.
HealthOn Broadway also gives Tucson Medical Center a new vehicle to attract patients when they do need a hospital. The local hospital market is increasingly competitive, dominated by large health systems headquartered outside of Tucson.
Tucson Medical Center still dominates in market share for individual local hospitals, but Phoenix-based Banner health has publicly stated it wants a bigger piece of the pie.
The company entered the Tucson market last year when it acquired Banner-University Medical Center Tucson and Banner-University Medical Center South. It is investing a half billion dollars locally, building a new hospital and clinical operations.
The city and county have wanted health services nearby where employees could walk during the day, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said.
An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people work downtown.
Caterpillar Inc. in May announced it would bring more than 600 jobs to downtown Tucson over five years with employees in executive management, engineering, product development and support positions.
Because the residential projects being built downtown are for a range of incomes, with some targeted at seniors, HealthOn Tucson leaders say they are prepared to serve a varied population.
HealthOn Broadway’s payment structure will work the same way El Rio Community Health Center handles patients, accepting self-pay, any kind of major insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, which in Arizona is called AHCCCS, or the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Anyone without insurance pays on a sliding-fee scale.
Since the only parking lot at One West will be for residents, there’s no designated parking for patients.
“We imagine a lot of our patients will be in walking distance of the center,” El Rio CEO Johnson said.
The top three stories of the One West building above HealthOn Broadway will be rental apartments with expansive views of “A” Mountain, St. Augustine Cathedral and the downtown area.
Half of the units have already been reserved with minimal marketing.
The one-, two- and three-bedroom units range from 832 to 1,604 square feet. Monthly rents start at $1,521 and go up to $3,297, the current rate sheet says. There’s also a locked area for bicycles and a rooftop deck with a pet relief area.
The rental-only building has the same ownership as One East, located at 1 E. Broadway on the northeast corner of Broadway and Stone.
The first residents of One East moved in during December of 2013 and the building has been full ever since, McGuire-Moore said.
“We had this really strong waiting list of people wanting to live the urban lifestyle but supply was lacking,” she said. So One East’s owners bought the site for One West in April 2015.
Construction, with an estimated cost of $13 million to $14 million, began in late 2015.
The first residents are expected to move in during November, before the health center opens.
The people wanting such units typically come from the suburbs and are downsizing from large homes, she said.
“When talking with our existing and future residents the theme is consistent — how liberating it is to get rid of stuff, have less, do more,” McGuire-Moore said.
From derelict to hip
Now that HealthOn Broadway is set to move downtown, the question is what services and amenities will follow.
“When your downtown was as derelict as ours was, none of the services are generally in place,” Tucson Downtown Partnership’s Keith said. “They tend to follow the changes in population.”
A wide range of opinions exists on the types of amenities needed, Keith said.
“You hear drug store mentioned often, you hear specialty retail mentioned a lot,” he said. “You have another group of people who say what we need to see down here is national retailers, because that will signal that we’ve truly turned the corner.
“People talk about everything from Nordstrom’s and Anthropologie, or a second Apple Store. Another one you hear is Trader Joe’s.”
He predicts change will be constant over the next few years.
“Cities like ours are late to the redevelopment game,” he said. “But when it happens, it happens very quickly.”