Mercy NWA secures land for clinic near Bentonville Community Center

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 1,068 views 

Mercy Northwest Arkansas has closed on a $2.4 million purchase of 19.4 acres in southwest Bentonville, and will start construction this spring on a neighborhood clinic.

According to Benton County land records, the healthcare organization paid Clayton and Sheila Eversole $2.83 per square foot for the land, situated near the Bentonville Community Center at 1101 S.W. Citizens Circle. The site is just south of the intersection of Southwest I Street and Arkansas Highway 12.

Bringing a freestanding clinic to one of Bentonville’s fastest-growing areas is part of Mercy NWA’s multi-year strategy to expand its services throughout the region. The large-scale plan was unveiled nine months ago by Mercy NWA President Eric Pianalto.

The most visible aspect of the $247 million investment is the construction of a seven-story, 279,000-square-foot tower. The footprint is west of the existing 350,000-square-foot Mercy hospital on Interstate 49 in Rogers, and preliminary construction has already started. The tower is expected to be complete by July 2019.

The coming year, though, will also see significant movement on Mercy NWA’s plan to build four new clinics in Benton County – two in Bentonville, one in Pea Ridge and another in western Bella Vista.

With the southwest Bentonville purchase complete, Mercy NWA Clinic President Steve Goss said land for three of the four Benton County locations is in hand, and construction at all three sites will start “in pretty rapid succession” in the coming weeks.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Goss said. “All the planning, all the strategy was how do we provide access to a community that’s growing so fast. There was not a clinic or a hospital plan. It was simply how do we generate access? We’re excited to offer this to the community.”

As of Monday (Jan. 30), Mercy NWA has 34 clinic and outpatient facilities and 212 clinic physicians.

SOUTHWEST BENTONVILLE
The city’s population estimate as of Jan. 1 is 45,458, according to Troy Galloway, director of community and economic development. Approximately 60% of those residents, Galloway said, live west and south of Walton Boulevard, the city’s primary north-south artery.

“If I had to put a pin on a map of where the definitive center of the city is, it’s probably pretty close to that Southwest I and Highway 12 intersection,” Galloway said.

To underscore the rapid growth in southwest Bentonville, Galloway said there were 594 single-family building permits issued last year in Bentonville, and nearly 65% of those were west and southwest of Walton Boulevard.

“That is where the available land is” Galloway explained. “The city invested in water and sewer infrastructure two decades ago when we extended it out to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport [in Highfill]. That laid the groundwork for the southwest part of the city for residential, commercial and even some industrial growth.

“Anecdotally, we talk to a lot of people on a weekly basis looking to develop in Bentonville, and a little over half of those are looking to the southwest part of the city,” Galloway added.

Mercy NWA’s clinic land is to the left of the I Street entrance to the Bentonville Community Center. To the right of the entrance is 13.64 acres that was acquired late last year for $1.79 million, or $3.02 per square foot. The owner is a Springfield, Mo., developer who is planning to build an upscale apartment community on the property.

In addition to numerous residential neighborhoods, developments in close proximity to the I Street/Highway 12 intersection include McDonald’s, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Pediatric Dental Associates & Orthodontics, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Links at Rainbow Curve apartment community and Bentonville Fire Department’s Fire Station No. 6.

CONSTRUCTION
According to land records, Mercy NWA has paid a combined $3.59 million for three clinic sites in Benton County. In addition to the southwest Bentonville land, the healthcare organization paid $348,480 for a 1.5-acre site in Pea Ridge on Carr Street, north of Community First Bank, and $843,975 for 2.4 acres on North Walton Boulevard in Bentonville, directly across from a Walmart Neighborhood Market at 1400 N. Walton Blvd. Both purchases were made last year.

In regards to a suitable site for a clinic in Bella Vista, Goss said “we are still looking,” adding that Mercy NWA doesn’t have any land under contract.

The Pea Ridge groundbreaking is imminent, and Goss said it’s expected to open by late summer 2017. Mercy NWA spokeswoman Jennifer Cook said the construction has been bid in Pea Ridge, but a final selection has not been made to choose the contractor. The architect of record is Studio 6 Architects, based in Fort Smith.

Construction starts on the two Bentonville clinics will follow later in the spring, with target opening dates of fall to early winter for the north Bentonville location and late 2017 to early 2018 for the southwest Bentonville location.

Goss, who has served as president of Mercy’s integrated physicians in Northwest Arkansas since November 2003, said Mercy’s standard template for clinics are referred to as one-pod or two-pod developments, and each pod is about 7,500 square feet.

Clinics in Pea Ridge and north Bentonville will be one-pods, similar to Mercy NWA clinics in Centerton and downtown Rogers. The southwest Bentonville clinic is a two-pod clinic, and will replace a nearby Mercy clinic in leased space of 11,900-square-foot building that is shared with White Oak Station convenience store.

Goss said one-pods have capacity for 4 to 5 providers, 15 exam rooms and laboratory/X-ray space. The two-pod clinic that’s planned for southwest Bentonville will likely have about 10 doctors to start with, Goss said, with a mixture of primary care, family care and pediatrics.

Mercy NWA leaders are also busy developing a site plan for a medical campus on 30.89 acres along Interstate 49 in Springdale. The property on North 48th Street, south of Elm Springs Road, was acquired in September for $13.6 million (10.11 per square foot) in September.

Goss said Mercy NWA leaders are sharing research regarding health care data in the area and asking for community members input about the size and scope of the facility and what services are offered.

He said the campus is targeted to open in July 2018.

STAFFING
Goss said Mercy NWA has already successfully recruited a family practitioner from Little Rock to head the Pea Ridge clinic. The doctor’s wife is a physician’s assistant.

“He has experience working in a smaller town in Illinois earlier in his career, and was anxious to anchor the clinic in Pea Ridge,” Clinic said.

Goss said the recruitment of new doctors will soon consume “a fair amount” of his time. Mercy NWA is not the only healthcare organization growing in the region – Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Washington Regional Medical System are also expanding – and finding qualified healthcare personnel is going to be a critical issue for each of them.

Speaking Friday (Jan. 27) in Rogers at the Regional Economic Forecast Luncheon hosted by the University of Arkansas, economist Kathy Deck said about 4,400 new jobs will be in Northwest Arkansas this year, and approximately 1,000 of those will be tied to healthcare.

“We have not been recruiting heavily the past year, but we are in ramp-up phase again to hit our goals,” Goss said. “It’s a significant piece of the plan. We want great folks who are a Mercy fit.”

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