Mount Carmel West change draws investors

Carrie Ghose Staff reporter Columbus Business First

Demolition of inpatient structures at Mount Carmel West won’t start until 2019, but investors already are picking up property at the hospital campus borders.

Mount Carmel Health System has hired urban planner Tripp Umbach Inc. and invited city and neighborhood representatives to help plan West’s transformation to an outpatient medical care and education center, said Jason Koma, external affairs director who’s coordinating the effort. Leaders hope that change can speed a rebound of the Franklinton neighborhood.

The hospital system last spring revealed a $46 million transformation of West as part of a $711 million plan that includes building a hospital in Grove City. When it opens there in three years, Mount Carmel will keep emergency and outpatient services at West but demolish its inpatient towers, moving 1,500 jobs.

It also will open up three parking garages near a potential commercial strip, plus 9 acres taken up by the towers and employee parking. Mount Carmel College of Nursing finally gets to expand, likely taking over an adjoining office building.

What might seem like subtraction can add to the vitality of a neighborhood, said Paul Umbach, president of Tripp Umbach.

“Hospitals become little islands. People go and park. There’s tons of food inside. People are there 24 hours a day,” he said. “The transition (represents) a catalyst for economic development and change. It’s the rock hitting the pond.”

Ripples have formed: A nursing home, pizzeria and medical office building neighboring the campus have been sold. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus sold the former temporary home of Cristo Rey High School tucked in the hospital campus; a charter school opened in fall.

A vacant former Ford dealership on East Broad Street has attracted interest, said Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade. He’s also aware of at least two developers considering projects nearby because of the change.

“For so many years, so much of Broad Street was dedicated to parked-car inventory,” Smith said. “This is an opportunity to have something active that draws people in. ... We have a desire to resupply the neighborhood with regular amenities like a dry cleaner and flower shop.”

Pittsburgh-based Tripp Umbach has about 10 projects with U.S. hospitals trying to add community outreach and health education, but its president said Mount Carmel stands out by seeking neighborhood opinion and projects that will create jobs.

“Our hope ... is this will be a model – five to 10 years from now people will say this is the way to do it,” Umbach said.

Koma said groups are being assembled to focus on four plans: health care services, social and outreach services, educational institutions and economic development. Invited are the city, Smith, Franklinton Development Association, Lower Lights Christian Health Center, Gladden Community House and others.

“We don’t want to come in and say, we think it needs to be this or needs to be that,” city Development Director Steve Schoeny said. “We want to hear from the community.”

Tripp Umbach will deliver a plan this fall from what the groups report.

“There might be a few things we can do sooner,” Koma said. “We want to make sure this is a campus that is a vibrant, innovative environment.”

Property booster shot

In December, a couple bought a house on Martin Avenue, abutting employee parking lots for Mount Carmel West, for $137,000 – the third-highest price for a single-family home in that area for 2014 and 2015, according to Franklin County Auditor sales reports. A handful of commercial properties surrounding the campus have sold since Mount Carmel Health System disclosed last March that it would redevelop West as an outpatient and educational campus with some potential for other commercial uses:

44 S. Souder Ave., $1.31 million in May, rehabilitation and nursing facility renamed Astoria Place of Columbus, which documents link to the owner of Astoria Place nursing home in Chicago.

840 W. State St., $365,000 in June, former child center and school sold by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus to Rearden Capital LLC, a Florida firm that finances and develops charter schools that operators lease. Central High School opened in September with about three dozen students.

894 W. Broad St., $120,000 in September, Columbini Sport Diner pizzeria plus a home and vacant lot, sold to Ricjan Enterprises LLC, owned by a Grove City couple, until now investing in single-family homes.

867 W. Town St. and nearby Town Street parcels, $380,000 in August, medical office and vacant lots sold to Friends of Franklinton LLC, owned by Franklinton resident Devin Fraze, who has purchased several houses in the neighborhood.

Source: Franklin County property records, Columbus Business First research