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DALLAS-Today’s ground-breaking heralds an alliance of the Dallas-based Cirrus Group and Toshiba Corp., which is sending eight dignitaries, including its CFO, to the dirt-turning at the historic Snider Plaza in the city’s University Park section.

The 10 a.m. event kicks off the first in a series of leading edge, multi-specialty imaging centers that are on the Cirrus-Toshiba drawing boards. The Park Cities Medical Plaza will cost about $10 million, excluding equipment, for 40,000 sf of offices, outpatient surgery, imaging and rehab space and about 80,000 sf in two levels of underground parking in an in-town area that grapples daily with the woes of too few spaces.

Coming from Toshiba’s Tokyo headquarters is Hideo Hasegawa, senior vice president, CFO and treasurer. In addition, the Tustin, CA-based Toshiba America Medical Systems Inc. is sending three vice presidents in sales, marketing and service. Also on hand will be four Toshiba executives from the southwestern US region.

Cirrus closed on the Snider Plaza site July 1 as AAE Architects of Dallas were hard at work designing an in-town imaging center prototype that would meld with the retail center’s eclectic look that has been evolving since the 1930s. The three-story building will be the new home of the Texas Sports Medicine Orthopedic Clinic and Rehabilitation Services.

Bill Hutchison, Cirrus Group president, says the innovative imaging center is 85% leased. Texas Sports will occupy 6,000 sf of office space and its rehab division, 2,747 sf. Also on board are Park Cities SurgiCare, taking 12,758 sf for an outpatient surgery center, and Park Cities Imaging Center, which has 8,436 sf. Cirrus is negotiating with physicians for the remaining two offices.

Snagging Texas Sports, Hutchison tells, is “little match made in heaven. It’s a win situation for Texas Sports. It’s a win situation for us.” The sports medicine group had been looking for a site to expand its services just at the time that Cirrus learned Dallas-based Madison Realty was willing to part with the site for the right price. “It’s terrific real estate,” emphasizes Hutchison. “It’s an urban redevelopment dead set in the middle of the best demographics perhaps in Texas or at least in North Texas.” It’s also a win for University Park and Snider Plaza retailers, whose customers will have access to the 134 parking spots after the imaging center locks its doors for the night.

The project is being hailed as one that will put it into the top 2% or 3% of imaging centers nationwide and will include some $3 million to $6 million of medical equipment, according to Bill Matheny, president of Cirrus Information Services. The Park Cities Medical Plaza is Cirrus’ 11th medical facility, but the first of this type and the first in a non-medical setting. It kicks off a program that will deliver two to four imaging centers of similar design inside and outside US borders in the next two years, says Matheny. The Dallas facility, which delivers in October 2002, is being built at 6901 Snider Plaza near Southern Methodist University.

Dr. Clifford Kirby, president of Cirrus’ ancillary services based in Houston, tells that MRI, CT and nuclear medicine services will be available in the freestanding structures, a teaming most often only found at hospitals and medical universities. It’s a bonus for patient and doctor, he stresses. The Toshiba alliance, he adds, will substantially cut re-tooling costs in the future when equipment needs upgraded or replaced. “That’s a real advantage for us,” he says. Cirrus could end up with double play on the alliance since talks also are under way with SurgiCare, which operates surgery center in a Cirrus-built facility in Pasadena, TX.

El Paso-based CFJordan is the general contractor. At peak construction, there will be 75 to 80 workers on site, says Dennis Gee, CFJordan’s vice president. He estimates it will take 10 months to get the building to shell condition and another four months for tenant improvements.

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