Development group buys vacant building with aim to build hospital housing

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AURORA | Sitting just a few blocks from the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Medical Center of Aurora, the 110,000 square-foot building at 830 Potomac Street is in the geographic heart of Aurora’s booming health-care industry.

That location makes the building an ideal place for patients and their families to stay while receiving treatment at one of the nearby facilities, according to Brian Watson, founder and president of Northstar Commercial Partners.

Aurora Medical PavilionLast week, Northstar purchased the building for $3.4 million with an eye toward turning the property into medical
housing.

Watson said with thousands of patients visiting area hospitals every week, there is a growing need for housing.

“Several groups have come to us saying there is a need for patient and family housing,” he said.

That need will only increase in the coming years when a new Veterans Affairs hospital opens at the Anschutz Medical Campus, he said.

Watson said Northstar doesn’t plan on running the housing facilities themselves, but instead plans to lease the property to someone who will, possibly one of the area hospital systems or medical providers that need space for patients and their families.

At the Anschutz Campus alone, more than 40,000 patients were admitted for overnight stays last year — 26,000 at UCH, and another 17,000 at Children’s, according to those hospitals.

And many of those hospital visits come from people who live far outside of Aurora.

Dan Weaver, a spokesman for University of Colorado Hospital, said the hospital is the only facility in the region that provides heart and lung transplants, so they draw patients from several neighboring states.

Gary Wheat, director of Visit Aurora, the city’s tourism promotion arm, said last year, the at least 26,000 medical visitors needed help planning their stay in Aurora. That figure includes only the visitors who reached out to Visit Aurora for assistance with their stay, Wheat said, and 2013 was the first year the department tracked visitors.

“We expect those numbers to significantly increase as we push out the messaging,” he said.

Wheat said that as the city’s medical tourism scene grows, more businesses will jump into the market, providing everything from bed space to restaurant meals tailored to patients’ diets.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said in a statement announcing Northstar’s plans that the project is a welcome addition to the city’s healthcare industry.

“Aurora boasts a growing medical district dedicated to excellence in patient care, education and research,” he said. “The addition of this premier facility will support quality medical care, along with comfortable housing options that will make treatment a bit more pleasant for patients and their families.”

Since the Anschutz Medical Campus opened in 2007, projects around the campus have been slow to develop, particularly hotels aimed at patients and families.

Corporex Colorado opened a Springhill Suites by Marriott on the south side of East Colfax Avenue in 2011, but that extended-stay hotel has been one of just a handful of options within a few blocks of the medical center. Corporex has plans for another hotel adjacent to the Springhill Suites.

Nonprofits have also filled the gap for patient and family housing, with the Ronald McDonald House on Potomac Street housing as many as 45 families per night, and Brent’s Place west of the campus housing as many as 17 each night.

The property at 830 Potomac used to house medical offices. Watson said crews will soon start some demolition work to get the property opened up and ready to show to possible tenants.

The property is ideal, Watson said, because the building is already there and only requires a remodel, instead of new construction.

“With our building, we literally could get them in there inside of six months,” he said.