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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Last modified at 8:34 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, 2003
© 2003 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Lubbock medical community moving north of town


Cheaper land prices and plenty of room to expand are serving as the magnets that are drawing the medical community's attention to Northwest Lubbock.

The movement began in June 2001 when NorthStar Surgical Center, a state-of-the-art medical facility dedicated to outpatient surgery with a focus on quality patient care, sprouted in a former cotton field.

It gained considerable momentum during the past few months after 13 Lubbock physicians -- three heart surgeons and 10 cardiologists -- announced they were joining forces with Kansas-based Heart Hospitals of America, LLC, to build Lubbock Heart Hospital.

Another major announcement in the movement toward the northwest was the introduction of the North Loop Development Plan, an integrated mix of single- and multifamily homes, shopping centers, hotels, medical and entertainment facilities involving four developers and more than 1,00 acres. That plan will include the construction of Quaker Medical Park, a comprehensive medical and wellness community, on a 150-acre parcel being developed by Dr. Lillian Chou.

''The price of existing real estate between 19th and 24th streets, and Indiana Avenue and Quaker Avenue is high, and the space is very limited,'' said Chou, founder of Wellness Lubbock and co-founder of Lubbock Cancer Center.

''It's an overcrowding situation. When a new project comes up that requires five acres or more, there's not much available there. The north side has reasonably priced real estate with an excellent infrastructure such as the highway system and Loop 289. Much of the existing medical community already is located on the north side of the Loop, inside the Loop.''

Included in Chou's plans for the medical park are a 10,000-square-foot wellness facility, a one-of-a-kind lifestyle education center for all ages, on a two-acre tract, as well as a $3 million, 30,000 square-foot medical office plaza on a three-acre tract.

''One of these days, Lubbock will become a very large and sophisticated medical community,'' Chou said. ''It's already good, but there's always room for improvement. As we continue to get known internationally and nationally, we will attract more patients to Lubbock from all over.''

The location has worked out well for NorthStar, which has averaged between 700 to 800 surgical procedures performed there each month, according to Ron Rives, administrator at NorthStar Surgical Center.

''We've seen pretty phenomenal growth in two years, and we certainly have some room for further growth,'' Rives said. ''We've got great physician support, and we've got great community support.''

The $7 million, 22,000-square-foot facility is the result of a partnership between Houston-based Physicians Surgical Care Inc. and 28 Lubbock physicians. The surgery center, with 80 physicians now on staff, sits on a 31-acre tract at 4640 N. Loop 289, near Erskine Street.

''Primarily it was physician-driven, looking for something better for their patients and something better for themselves as far as access and efficiency of time,'' Rives said of the pioneering development of NorthStar in northwest Lubbock.

''It was less expensive property, with enough acreage that gave them room to expand. It's also closer to the medical center than something in Southwest Lubbock would be.''

In August, a 50,000-square-foot professional office building is expected to open adjacent to NorthStar, with imaging, pharmacy and physical therapy services to be housed there, in addition to 12 to 15 offices for physicians.

NorthStar also will get another new neighbor before the end of December when construction is expected to be completed on Lubbock Heart Hospital. Ground has been broken on the 14-acre tract and building has begun on the $40 million, 100,000-square-foot facility.

The 85-bed heart hospital, expected to serve Lubbock, the South Plains and Eastern New Mexico, will be located at 4810 N. Loop 289, a site southwest of the surgical center.

''We looked at about four or five different locations around the city of Lubbock,'' said James L. Rheem, general partner and executive vice president for business development for Heart Hospitals of America, LLC. ''With NorthStar right there, we liked the concept of creating a medical park.

''What we really liked is that it will be easy for patients and their families to drive to the hospital and come right in. This is about patients and patient care.''

Lubbock Heart Hospital will feature four operating suites, three catheterization labs and electrophysiology labs. The facility also will offer emergency medical treatment through a heart emergency center staffed by physicians and emergency medical professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Rheem said.

Heart Hospitals of America, a national provider of cardiovascular care, also operates the 60-bed Galichia Heart Hospital in Wichita, Kan., which employs 230 people. Lubbock Heart Hospital is expected to employ about 250 people, according to Rheem.

''There was plenty of room in northwest Lubbock,'' Rheem added. ''There's a lot of parking spaces. It's a growing area.

''In five years, it will be the leading edge of medical practices. It will be a shining star for West Texas and the city of Lubbock.''

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