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Expanded University of Rochester orthopedic center could save Marketplace Mall

Expanded University of Rochester orthopedic center could save Marketplace Mall

In a couple of years, you’ll be able to buy a sweater, eat a meal and maybe even get your knee replaced at The Marketplace Mall.

Preliminary rendering of UR's proposed orthopedic center to be built at Markeplace Mall. Image supplied.
Preliminary rendering of UR’s proposed orthopedic center to be built at Markeplace Mall.

University of Rochester Medical Center and mall owner Wilmorite announced earlier this week plans to construct a $240 million orthopedic center at the mall, taking over the Sears building and the wing of the mall including it. The former Sears would be reconstructed into a surgical center, while UR plans to build a four-to-six story building next to it to house clinical spaces including imaging and treatment rooms.

If all goes according to plan, including the necessary local and state approvals, the surgical wing would open in 2022, while the tower would open a year later. The timing for additional phases has not been set.

The project is something of a hail-Mary pass for The Marketplace Mall, which has suffered declining attendance and occupancy as shoppers have followed a national trend to move their purchases online.

“The foot traffic that’s going to generate is going to be a kick-start to our retailers and lead to the long-term sustainability of Marketplace,” said Paul Wilmot, president of Wilmorite. He said new retailers and especially restaurants will be drawn to the mall to capture the business and appetites of hundreds of healthcare workers and an average of 1,000 medical visits each day.

The 330,000-square-foot project would be the biggest off-campus building in the University of Rochester’s history, and would be nearly triple the size of the outpatient orthopedic center it maintains at Clinton Crossing right now. Other medical services will be moved into the Clinton Crossing space but haven’t been settled on yet.

University officials said they’ll be expanding current orthopedic services and adding new ones in order to accommodate increasing demand for orthopedic services. Approximately 100 more employees will be added over several years.

Mark Taubman M.D., CEO of URMC, said “We’ve seen a 25 percent increase in orthopedic surgery cases over the past seven years, and a 60 percent increase in ambulatory visits in the same period of time.”

In addition, added Paul T. Rubery M.D., head of UR’s Department of Orthopaedics, demographic changes are suggesting a rising need for services, as the population of 50 million Americans older than 65 is expected to double by 2060.

The center would include wellness services designed to prevent the need for surgery in some cases; sports medicine services, imaging and outpatient surgery.  It would also move to an outpatient setting some surgeries that have typically been done in hospitals.

Mary Ockenden,  UR’s associate vice president for space, planning and real estate, said medical centers around the country have been moving to short-stay surgeries where patients sometimes spend less than 24 hours at a surgical center for a hip surgery.

UR chose the site, Ockenden said, for its easy access by car and bus and the condition of the site that would allow construction right away. “This one suited us for the right type of building we needed and the speed to market was really attractive,” she said.

The orthopedic center would also include a prevention and wellness component, known as the Center for Human Athleticism and Musculoskeletal Performance and Prevention, or CHAMPP.  The approach of that center would be “really understanding the factors that drive injury and aging” and working to prevent or mitigate those factors with the goal of avoiding or delaying orthopedic surgery, Ockenden said.

Wilmorite and UR have signed an agreement to purchase the Sears wing and surrounding property for the project. Wilmot said he expects tenants in that wing will move elsewhere in the mall over the next 10 months, but otherwise shoppers and tenants will see no other impact during the construction period. The mall’s current ring road would remain unchanged, he said.

“This will truly be a ‘transformative’ development for The Marketplace Mall, reinventing the property for mixed-use, and providing retail, entertainment and services all under one roof,” Wilmot, said. “Mixed-use is the wave of the future for many enclosed shopping centers and we are pleased to be able to bring this to The Marketplace Mall so quickly after the exiting of a department store.”

The project still needs the approval of the UR board of trustees, but they’ve already committed $11 million for project design.

“The University of Rochester is proud to be the leading healthcare provider across much of upstate New York and the Southern Tier,” said UR President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf. “We are delighted to be expanding our services with the creation of this innovative new orthopedic facility.”

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