Moving ahead

MARQUETTE – With finalist architectural firms making presentations in Nashville this week, Marquette General Hospital CEO Ed Banos said if all goes well with design and site selection, groundbreaking on a new 265-bed hospital could take place in spring 2015.

In September, a year after Marquette General was acquired by Duke LifePoint Healthcare, hospital officials announced a new hospital and an adjoined 168,000 square-foot physician office building, would be constructed to replace the current regional medical facility.

Cost to build the new hospital and office building were estimated at $290 million, compared to $230 million to revamp the current facility.

“We’re hoping that the design process could go on towards the end of this year and then getting that completed and maybe in early next year go out to construction document bidding,” Banos said. “And then if everything works well, perfectly, we could break ground (that) next spring.”

Nine architectural firms responded to the hospital’s request for proposals, which were narrowed to four. Those finalists were making presentations this week at hospital offices in Nashville.

An assistant administrator from Marquette General was in attendance.

“We have probably about 40 or 50 questions that we’re asking each one of the four finalists,” Banos said. “That will then be tabulated and we’ll probably be able to announce a firm in the next couple of weeks that will be the ones that will start working with us on the design.”

That work will start soon after the firm is selected.

“We can start preliminary design work even before a site is selected,” Banos said. “Our expectation is once a firm is picked, they’re going to start looking at the big picture.”

The architectural firm will be getting input from physicians, staff, the public and others “of how we need to build the best, most progressive, hospital that’s out there in the United States now,” Banos said.

Banos declined to disclose who the four finalist architectural firms were until a selection has been made.

“They were all very well-qualified architectural firms who do health care design and have all built hospitals greater than 200 beds,” Banos said. “That was the criteria we used to narrow it down (from nine firms to four).”

Banos declined to say exactly where the finalists were located from, but he said firms from Michigan submitted proposals to the selection process.

“We expect to be designing this all the ways towards the end of the year,” Banos said. “So we’re looking at 40 or so weeks of design for the new hospital.”

Meanwhile, a consulting firm specializing in health care real estate site developments is working on picking a location for the new hospital. The group recently came to Marquette from Nashville, a hub for health care entities.

Banos said more than 20 potential locations are being explored, all situated within Marquette County. Among those, the former Marquette County Airport site in Negaunee Township and K.I. Sawyer were proposed as places with available land. Sites within Marquette and Marquette Township are also being considered.

“Anyone who sent us anything, including private citizens, we have shared that information with our site selector,” Banos said, not wanting to exclude anyone from the initial review of possible places to build the new hospital. “We wanted to share it so that the site selector had a very good understanding of what’s available all over the place for comparison reasons.”

Banos said hospital officials hope a location for the new hospital will be selected within the next 60 to 70 days.

The consulting firm sent representatives to Marquette recently. They met with hospital, government and economic development officials.

“They spent a couple days in town just understanding the lay of the land,” Banos said.

The group has since returned to Nashville and is studying the information it compiled.

“They are putting together, the way I could describe it, is a chart of pros and cons for every single property that we’ve had (suggested),” Banos said. “So they are looking right now at access, utilities, size of the land, demographics of the land, where it would be located from a traffic count all the way to the point where if we would have opportunities for if the hospital would expand and grow, would that property be able to handle that?”

The group will document all of the attributes and then rank the sites, developing probably between three to five locations as having made “the first cut,” Banos said.

“Then what they’ll do is come back to us and meet with the board, meet with the local officials, meet with others and say, ‘Let’s do a little more digging and a little more due diligence,” Banos said. “And we’re hoping that that first cut will come in the next 30 to 60 days.”

After that, additional meetings and opinion input will take place as the potential sites will continue to be scrutinized and the number of locations narrowed.

“Ultimately, it will come down to criteria and how they point assess it: accessibility, size of the land, infrastructure, cost of the infrastructure,” Banos said.

Engineers and geologists will also analyze potential sites to assess costs for constructing sewer lines or other infrastructure. Access will be considered from a traffic standpoint, available roads, traffic lights and parking areas. Costs to fill or otherwise prepare sites for building will also be determined.

“They are going to look at all those things and weigh the options as well as dealing with it from just an overall flow campus type of thing too,” Banos said. “If it’s square versus triangular, it might be hard to get patient flow and traffic.”

Banos said the current hospital campus is “geographically challenged,” with several front entrances and services scattered across the campus. Officials want parking located near services and easier access for patients and others visiting the hospital.

Banos said if groundbreaking does occur in spring 2015, the primary goal would be to lay the concrete before wintertime.

“If we can break in the spring and get the main thing done, we can work all winter long putting up studs, steel and all that kind of stuff,” Banos said. “We’re hoping that that project then would take about two-and-a-half years to build the hospital.”

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is