North Austin medical corridor continues growth spurt

[Updated 1:32 p.m. Feb. 4, 2013 to provide the correct number of births at St. David's Medical Center]

Two new medical office buildings are close to filling up, and the St. David's Women's Center of Texas, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary, has already outgrown its space, one indication the North Austin medical corridor is not done growing.

St. David's HealthCare secured $36 million in funding in October to expand the Women's Center, located inside St. David's North Austin Medical Center, as well as to grow the footprint of its surgical department with more operating rooms. The hospital plans to apply for building permits by the beginning of March, and construction will take 14 months, said Malcolm Belisle, vice president corporate services for St. David's HealthCare.

"The demand there has really grown since [the Women's Center] opened," he said.

But Belisle knows the growth of St. David's NAMC won't stop there as the population in Austin and Williamson County continues to surge. The health care system purchased 24.5 acres south of the campus several years ago, anticipating the need to further expand.

"That campus, where it's located, is in the geographic center of the population for the area," he said. "We know [the campus] is going to have to grow in the future."

Geographic center

Being in the geographic population center of the Austin metro area is one reason the Plaza North and Cedar Bend Professional Center, both adjacent to St. David's, came to fruition.

"It's the premier medical center of the new Austin," said Dr. Daniel Slaughter, one of the doctors at Capital Otolaryngology, which recently moved into the Cedar Bend building in October.

Plaza North, developed by Austin-based construction and development firm LandCreek, opened in October 2011, and one of the last remaining spaces was filled the first week of January.

Drs. Adam Mamelak and Miriam Hanson opened their practice, Sanova Dermatology, in May in the building. Of the seven or eight properties they considered, Mamelak said Plaza North stood out because of its proximity to other medical offices and St. David's NAMC. He said he and Hanson have benefited from being near other doctors because they see a lot of patients from other fields, such as pediatrics and primary care, as well as from the Women's Center and the St. David's transplant center.

"[Medicine] is a team effort," he said.

Slaughter and his colleague, Dr. Christopher Thompson from Capital Otolaryngology, purchased about 10 acres of land at the northeast corner of Cedar Bend Drive and the MoPac frontage road seven years ago. They sold the parcel where Plaza North now sits and the parcel closest to the corner, leaving the remaining plot to develop the Cedar Bend building, which opened in August.

"We saw what was happening to this area from a medical center complex view," Slaughter said.

The doctors teamed up with commercial real estate development firm Live Oak-Gottesman to build the 70,000-square-foot medical building that houses Capital Otolaryngology, an umbrella group that includes Nasal & Sinus Center, Snoring Austin and RENU Facial Cosmetic Center. Orthopedic group North Austin Sports Medicine also occupies space in the building and moved in Jan. 21.

Capital Otolaryngology relocated from Medical Oaks Pavilion I on Renfert Way. Slaughter said the main reason for moving was because the group needed more room, but the added benefit is people leaving The Domain and heading north on MoPac will now see their new signs.

The parcel closest to the corner of Cedar Bend and MoPac is the site of the newest P. Terry's Burger Stand. Construction began Jan. 2.

Medical history

The medical corridor's roots date back to the 1990s when Austin Diagnostic Clinic, which has a location at 2400 Cedar Bend Drive, partnered with the health care company that operates St. David's NAMC to build a health care mall or one-stop shop for medical needs. The hospital complex opened in 1995 and now has 1.6 million square feet of space on 37 acres of land.

In 2000, the first Medical Oaks Pavilion building opened on Renfert Way behind the hospital. Austin-based HealthCare Facilities Development developed the building and expanded it in 2004 to include Medical Oaks Pavilion II. Medical Oaks Pavilion III opened in 2011. A spokeswoman for HCFD said the company owns 2 acres near Cedar Bend Drive that it could develop with another medical office building, although it does not have plans to do so at this time.

Behind the Medical Oaks Pavilion I-II building on Park Bend Drive are the three buildings that make up the Post Oak Centre North complex. Medical office development firm Onair Development purchased the building closest to Park Bend Drive in 2008. The other two are separately owned. Onair architect Charles Russell said the buildings were originally built as condominiums. Onair's building is fully leased out.

"They're physician-owned spaces, and that tends to keep it at a higher occupancy," Russell said.

Growing the Women's Center

In 2012, Belisle said the Women's Center of Texas delivered 5,874 babies and now is the largest obstetrics facility in the region. St. David's Medical Center on 32nd Street delivered 4,680 babies the same year, he said. The Women's Center occupies 167,000 square feet in the hospital, and the expansion will add another 72,000 square feet. Belisle said the new space will allow for the addition of 10 neonatal intensive care unit beds with room for another 13 if needed. The hospital will also add 16 antepartum rooms.

Opening the Women's Center was mainly driven by demand from obstetricians who discovered most of their patients were traveling from Northwest Austin and Williamson County, Belisle said.

"People don't want to come downtown to have babies [when they already live in Northwest Austin]," he said.

Based on the St. David's NAMC planned unit development permit for the campus and undeveloped land, it has the ability to grow up to 2.5 million square feet, Belisle said, which includes 915,000 square feet on the undeveloped land. However, the hospital has not yet decided what would be the best use for the land, he said.

"We know in terms of planning, that facility will be one of the major growths," Belisle said.

By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


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