Baptist Health hunts in vain for Brickell site
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Despite vast Brickell office space vacancies, a hospital seeking a site to run an urgent care center there is hunting in vain.
Baptist Health South Florida is looking for 6,000 square feet for an urgent care facility or 12,000 up for both a medical facility and diagnostics center to serve workers and residents, said Ana Lopez-Blazquez, chief strategic officer and CEO of Baptist Health Enterprises, Baptist's real estate division.
Vacant space isn't the issue. Brickell's class A and B office vacancy hit almost 16% in the third quarter, totaling 827,000 square feet empty, according to brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle. Plus, 1.8 million square feet of office space is under construction in the area, with two more towers due by mid-2010. And lease rates have fallen.
But finding a prime Brickell location is about more than just getting the right price, Ms. Lopez-Blazquez says: the hospital needs visibility, accessibility and plenty of parking.
It's a daunting task, says Jack Lowell, vice president of Flagler Real Estate Services, who has assisted Baptist in its Brickell search. He says office and condo owners usually don't want a medical user because patient traffic, operating hours and parking needs can conflict with other building users.
"The class A buildings usually don't allow that use," said Mr. Lowell, leasing agent for Met 2 Financial Center, an office tower to open next year just north of Brickell. "Generally, they don't want that kind of activity."
That's why care facilities generally go into medical buildings, he says.
The hospital has eyed Brickell for years, Ms. Lopez-Blazquez said, but after the real estate market tanked it put the search on hold as owners of new condo and office towers dealt with more pressing issues.
"But recently, we have seen more activity in that area," she says. "We do have people who want Baptist closer to where they work and live, so we are looking in that area but have not made any decision."
Brickell already has one urgent care center, MediGo, at 900 SW Second Ave., which is affiliated with Mercy Hospital and offers medical services seven days a week.
Baptist's concept for a support center was born more than a decade ago when its emergency room was clogging and the hospital saw a need for facilities more accessible throughout Miami-Dade, Ms. Lopez-Blazquez explained.
Baptist began setting up urgent care centers in areas such as Westchester, West Kendall and Doral, staffed with doctors and nurses who treat ailments such as flu, simple fractures and allergic reactions. Today, its nine centers serve more than 125,000 patients a year, she said.
"What's been happening is that since it's met the needs of the community and has been successful, we have looked at other areas where we perceive to be a need," she said.
The urban core is a definite target, but it would be a first for Baptist in a bustling corridor. Most of its centers are in shopping centers in residential neighborhoods.
The search, she acknowledges, is going to take time. "It's a whole new market and approach being more of an urban location."