ST. LOUIS-Medical construction, marked in the past decade bymassive hospital planning and development projects, has reached theend of that trend, according to the HOK Healthcare Practice in theNorth Central Region. Notwithstanding many large projects in theMidwest, including the $1-billion Ohio State University MedicalCenter ProectONE in Columbus, OH, the HOK team said large-scaleconstruction will now slow down for the next few years.

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Early this month, Matthew Cotton joined the company to co-leadthe region. He joins the 45-person team, partnered withChicago-based Sheila Cahnman. Cotton left design planning firmTsoi/Kobus Associates Inc. out of Boston, and says he’s joined amuch larger institution. “HOK is a global brand, and they go allthe way from planning and design to follow-up andoperation.”

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Though many MOB experts believe that the new government healthcare regulations would boost medical office development, bothCotton and Cahnman say there’s too been too much uncertainty in thepast two-to-three years to have any projects of size ready to go inthe coming months. “There’s been more of an incremental approach incapital investment in the past couple of years,” Cotton says.“Hospitals are more looking to invest in revenue generators, suchas replacing outdated beds or surgical platforms. You’re going tosee more renovation projects going forward.”

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Cahnman agrees, saying that hospitals, hampered by newrequirements such as much-expanded record keeping, want to focus onsmaller facilities or renovations that focus on keeping a patientwell. “If they are building, it’s for ambulatory care clinics. Theywant to have patients get procedures in the least expensive place,”she tells GlobeSt.com. “I think instead of new development, whichis also hampered by problems raising capital and philanthropy,you’re going to see more mergers and acquisitions, and hospitalsbuying physician practices and affiliations.”

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Right now is the tail end of the building boom, she says,including the Columbus project. Her company designed theone-million-square-foot complex, which will house a new 19-storytower that will include a cancer hospital and research institute,as well as a 144-bed critical care building. Other HOK projectswrapping up include a $417-million, new Columbia St. Mary’sHospital in Milwaukee that just opened, and a $211-million Our Ladyof Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, LA that will debutin summer 2011.

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The Midwest will begin to see less health care construction,Cahnman predicts, as she says there are many areas that are nowoverbuilt, and capital is harder to attain. What will be seen issome private groups going after public systems, she says, such asVanguard Health System’s $1.5-billion bid to take over the DetroitMedical Center. There are some hurdles as politicians and officialsargue whether a private firm should be allowed to take over anon-profit group. “There are a few hospitals like that, that couldbe targets, including down in Louisville. It will be interesting tosee how that develops,” Cahnman says.

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