The University of Indianapolis is negotiating with developers to finance a $22 million to $30 million health sciences center adjacent to its south-side campus.
UIndy would be the main tenant in the 134,000-square-foot building, which is slated to open in August 2015 on the southwest corner of Hanna and State avenues.
UIndy officials declined to name the developers it is talking to, but said it would select one this spring.
In addition, UIndy plans to release a request for proposals at the end of March to health agencies or hospital systems to potentially open clinical space in the center or operate a partnership with the university to study and improve health disparities in the city and state.
And on a parallel track, UIndy is talking directly to other health care providers about opening a presence in the new building. According to UIndy President Robert Manuel, the school has had talks with one provider that operates 250 clinics around the Midwest.
Roughly 34,000 square feet of the building is earmarked for those partners, Manuel said.
The project is the most ambitious yet launched by Manuel, who arrived at UIndy in 2012 from Georgetown University. He wants to mimic the extensive programs Georgetown has focused on public health issues.
“It’s an industry going through some massive change. It’s also an industry that isn’t going to go away,” Manuel said of his reasons for focusing on health care.
The new health sciences center—by bringing together academics, students and working health care professionals—will help UIndy compete for federal grants favoring multi-disciplinary research that leads to insights that can be translated, or applied, to actual medical practice.
“When you put all those experts into one building, you can draw insights,” Manuel said. “The overlap allows us to connect and then extend our capacity where we haven’t been extended before.”
Health care already is a huge part of UIndy’s campus. The programs that will be housed in the new health sciences center—nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, kinesiology and athletic training—account for more than half of UIndy’s enrollment of 5,400.
The school already employs 90 faculty members in those areas, and the center will give it the ability to hire more. For example, UIndy is hiring two additional faculty to launch its master’s of public health program this fall, and could add two or three more in later years.
The master’s in public health program will ramp up to include more than 30 students per year.
UIndy could launch additional programs focused on health issues in later years, too.
Keith Konkoli, a senior vice president in the health care practice at Indianapolis-based Duke Realty, said UIndy’s plans to partner with a health care provider could mesh with a trend in health care to make access to health care more convenient in geographies that are underserved.
Hospitals are increasingly opening small clinics, often with extended hours and “low-level” diagnostic services, as a way to attract more patients into their systems.
“Projects that we’re doing are taking a lot more of the health care into or as close to the patient population as possible,” Konkoli said.
The UIndy center will not be in the toniest part of Indianapolis. But Konkoli noted that, with health coverage expanding because of subsidies in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, it’s in hospital systems’ interests to serve patients wherever they can be found.
“There really is probably a good business case to be made,” Konkoli said. “I would be surprised if you don’t see a couple of the local health systems take a look at this.”•
Greg Andrews’ Behind the News column will return next week