July 3, 2008

Hospital to Lease Space in Fellows

By Dan Bustard, Eagle Times, Claremont, N.H.

Jul. 1--SPRINGFIELD -- In a perfect matching of needs, the first new major tenant to sign on with developers of the former Fellows Gear Shaper building in Springfield will lease 30,000 square feet next year for an integrated primary care practice.

Springfield Hospital announced plans Monday to form the Springfield Medical Group, which expects to be ready by October 2009 to bring 12 to 14 physicians and clinicians under one roof with a focus on family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric services.

A laboratory drawing station, physical therapy and billing operations will also be relocated to the River Street building, a former machine tool linchpin in Springfield now owned and in the process of being redeveloped by One Hundred River Street LLC.

Chief Executive Officer Tom Crawford said the hospital is outgrowing its current facility needs but struggled to find somewhere in Springfield with enough room and enough parking.

"I was just hoping to locate a space," Crawford said. "This fully integrated model will work very well for our patients."

Annual strategic planning by the hospital pointed to how "spacially challenged" things are with the hospital and its practices spread across town are becoming, Crawford said.

"Bringing these services together in one central location creates the opportunity for increased efficiency in the delivery of care, particularly for the elderly," he said. "Simply stated, we're outgrowing our current facilities. This move will help us meet the growing needs for health care services in the Springfield area. We will make every effort to make the move as seamless as possible for our patients, and we are confident they will be as proud as we are to have the opportunity to bring new use to a building that has been a vibrant part of our community since 1896."

Crawford said the Springfield Regional Development Corp. connected him with One Hundred River Street's Rick Genderson, one of three partners from the Washington, D.C. area who purchased the building. He saw the square footage inside the building, and once the discussions went well the outline of a possible agreement came easily.

"From a historical standpoint, it is an honor to be a part of," Crawford said. "I don't think we can go wrong."

Fellows Gear Shaper was in the building from 1896 to 1967. The town was given the building, which was conveyed in 1983 to the Precision Valley Development Corp. It hosted numerous tenants in the past 25 years as a business incubator.

Genderson had said a deal with a major tenant using 30,000 square feet was close earlier in June. Other discussions with potential tenants are ongoing.

Other than the pediatricians, the rest of the physicians will be coming from offices away from the hospital.

Crawford said the only other option to finding more space to lease would have been another professional building next to Springfield Hospital, which would have required cutting down on parking hill because the hospital is on a hill.

"Parking is always an issue" with the hospital and downtown Springfield in general, he said.

In down economic times, Crawford said spending money to build a new professional building may not have made sense. But trading leases for another lease provides more benefits to the hospital "and ultimately for our patients."


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Copyright (c) 2008, Eagle Times, Claremont, N.H.

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