September 10, 2008

Wrap Comes Off Mercy’s Fore River Campus Today


Mercy Health System of Maine is set to officially open its Fore River campus in Portland today, a 42-acre site that now dominates the cityscape as drivers travel north on Interstate 295.

The first phase of the $100 million project consists of a 151,000- square-foot hospital and an 80,000-square-foot, privately owned medical office building. Construction on the site, which overlooks the Fore River, began two years ago this month.

While Mercy's site on State Street will continue to house the emergency room, outpatient cardiology, critical care and administrative offices, the new campus will provide some breathing room, said Tim Prince, vice president of planning for the hospital, which is overseen by the Sisters of Mercy. The State Street site has 230,000 square feet of building space -split by two city streets - on a three-acre campus. Half of the building was built in 1942, the other half in 1952.

"The ingenuity with which we've overcome the barriers of this facility has been exhausting ... we've shoehorned things in," said Prince. "The types of amenities you need in a facility to make it the kind of healing environment can't be accommodated here.

"Even though our staff provides great care, the facility is a barrier to that," he said.

There are people who use closets as office space at State Street, Prince said. The smallest operating room at the new facility is bigger than the largest operating room on State Street, he said.

Portland City Manager Joseph Gray Jr. is intimate with the hospital's State Street facility, having gone through treatment for both prostate and colon cancer there. The building is obviously outdated, said Gray, with small rooms and undersized layouts.

He has visited the new campus' medical office building, found it easy to access and said, "Mercy will have a state-of-the-art facility."

"Our intention is to have a beautiful campus that's reflective of our faith-based heritage as well as our focus on a nurturing and caring environment," Prince said. "We're proud to have the opportunity to have beautified this industrial site that was an old railroad bed."

Godfrey Wood, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber, said the new facility is "certainly a new landmark."

Wood noted that recent expansions at both Mercy and Maine Medical Center draw people who are looking to move to Portland.

"One of the things people think most about when they're looking to move or live in a community is good hospitals," Wood said. "(The expansions) accentuate the notion that we offer fantastic health care here."

The new hospital houses diagnostic imaging, laboratories, inpatient and outpatient surgical services, and The Birthplace - Mercy's childbirth facilities. Mercy expects to treat its first patients at the hospital in about two weeks.

The buildings run on a north-south axis, which gives all patients' rooms a view of the Fore River. All Birthplace suites feature Jacuzzi tubs, and the campus is connected to the Portland Trails network.

The office building was built by Landmark Healthcare Facilities Inc. of Milwaukee. It already houses Fore River Urology and New England Foot and Ankle Specialists, which are departments of Mercy Hospital. Moving in with them are Mercy's Oncology/Hematology Center, Breast Care Specialists of Maine, the Lymphedema Treatment Center and Fore River Family Practice, bringing the building to just over 90 percent occupation, Prince said.

Landmark spent about $16 million to build the office building, and leases the land from Mercy.

Mercy spent $85.3 million on the land, site work and building. Of that, $7.2 million was cash released by the hospital's board of directors, $16 million came from fundraising in the community and the rest came from a bond held by Mercy and issued through the Maine Health Care/Higher Education Finance Authority.

Phase two of the project would begin with construction of a 700- to 900-car parking garage on the site, followed by the addition of a 200,000-square-foot building onto the back of the Fore River hospital. Mercy expects to begin that phase between 2012 and 2015.

That next phase would allow Mercy to move the rest of its State Street operations to the Fore River campus.

Today's grand opening is open to the public. It will begin at 10 a.m. with a dedication and blessing by Bishop Richard J. Malone, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:30 a.m.

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]

Originally published by By MATT WICKENHEISER Staff Writer.

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