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Sharp opens new medical center, replacing original location downtown

The city block bounded by Third and Fourth avenues and Grape and Fir streets near downtown and Bankers Hill had been a parking lot since 1947. And before that it was the location of the historic Florence Hotel, before it burned down.

Now, Sharp Rees-Stealy has turned the historic land into its newest medical center, as Tuesday marked the first day of business for the new facility, which replaces the old one across the street that opened in 1923.

“The original building … is several decades old, so we needed to replace that building, but we also wanted a new facility that was more compatible with the practice and patient experience that we are trying to deliver now,” said Dr. Donald C. Balfour III, president and medical director of Sharp Rees-Stealy.

On the first floor, patients can find the center’s pharmacy, optical shop, optometry and ophthalmology, physical therapy, and allergy and immunology. The first floor is one of two main entrances to the facility, off Fir Street.

The second floor opens onto Grape Street and houses the lab, occupational medicine, radiology and urgent care.

The third floor is home to internal medicine, family medicine and specialty practices including podiatry and family medicine, which are new additions for this medical center.

“It’s more of a healing experience where (patients) can come,” Balfour said. “There are more services here. We have family medicine and podiatry (departments) that we didn’t have in the old facility. We also have enhanced physical therapy, optometry shop and the pharmacy is much larger.”

The new building contains a wall of honor that recognizes the history of Sharp Rees-Stealy, a donor wall that lists the names of individuals who have made generous donations to the Sharp HealthCare Foundation in support of the new medical center; and a glass display of historical artifacts from the 1884 Florence Hotel found during excavation.

Throughout the facility's interior visitors will find nature photographs from local photographer Robert Turner, and tree and leaf artwork on the walls from local painter Amy Paul. These go along with the medical center’s theme and the historic Florence Hotel Moreton Bay Fig Tree, which could not be removed or relocated and sits off Grape Street.

“We hired an arborist as a consultant to look over any work in the proximity of the tree and also perform monthly reports and make sure the health of the tree was intact,” said Chris Jadwin, project manager for Rudolph and Sletten, the project's general contractor. Ron Matranga was the certified arborist hired by both Sharp and Rudolph and Sletten.

Construction began on the 66,365-square-foot medical office building 21 months ago. The new medical center was a design-build project by general and engineering contractors Rudolph and Sletten and architectural firm avrp studios.

A 300-space parking structure with reserved parking for electric vehicles and charging stations, as well as solar panels, acting as sun covers, are also part of the new Sharp Rees-Stealy medical center. Solar panels also are placed on the roof of the building.

The solar panels and charging stations are part of Sharp’s first sustainable medical center. It has environmentally friendly and energy-efficient amenities throughout the campus. Jadwin said the new facility was designed and built to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Some of these green sustainable features include native and adapted plants to reduce water consumption; a north-facing skylight to draw natural light into the lobby without solar heat gain; a decorative stone ballast was used to provide additional insulation; awnings were installed to reduce heat while allowing ample natural light in to the building; and bike racks were installed to allow for alternative transportation.

The old facility is currently housing administrative employees. There was no word from Sharp if they plan to do anything else with the land or old building.

The new medical center cost $42 million to build. The Sharp HealthCare Foundation is trying to raise $10 million to cover some of the cost. So far approximately $3 million has been donated.

A community grand opening for the new medical center is scheduled for Jan. 31. This is when the public and non-patients will be able to tour the new facility.

This is the 20th Sharp Rees-Stealy location in the county.

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