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Health Care Reaches Out

Ten health care facilities employ creative land use strategies to integrate medical care and wellness services into their communities.

(from Urban Land Magazine by Ron Nyren)

Ten health care facilities employ creative land use strategies to integrate medical care and wellness services into their communities.

A range of factors is leading health care institutions to experiment with real estate development strategies. Advances in technology have enabled procedures that once required a hospital stay to be carried out in outpatient facilities, allowing such buildings to be untethered from hospital campuses. Hospitals in urban areas are increasingly running out of room on campus for expansion.

To carry out their mandates, health care institutions have to develop strategies to make access to medical care convenient for populations in medically underserved areas-whether in fast-growing suburbs or low-income pockets of inner cities. Because they are often one of a city's largest employers, health care institutions undertaking major developments have the opportunity to serve as a catalyst for revitalization. Using techniques that range from the adaptive use of a historic jail and vacant big-box retail stores, partnerships with the private sector, the integration of medical facilities with housing or mixed-use villages, and innovative approaches to transportation using pedestrian sky bridges and an aerial tram, ten health care developments are reaching out into the built environment in new ways. Ron Nyren is a freelance architecture and urban design writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

South End Community Health Center, Boston, Massachusetts

In Boston's historic South End, urban renewal efforts in the 1950s left a hole in the community. During the 1990s, the Boston Redevelopment Authority worked with Boston developer South Park Associates, the local neighborhood association, and the community-owned nonprofit South End Community Health Center to fill that hole with an atypical mixed-use project. Designed by Anshen+Allen of Boston and completed in 2000, the six-story 1601 Washington Street includes retail space, a commercial pharmacy, and a café on the ground floor; the health center on the second and third floors; and 39 condominiums on the top three floors.

The area's largely Hispanic population now has convenient access to adult and pediatric services, obstetric and gynecology services, a dental clinic, drug counseling, and mental health services. The building's contemporary design incorporates brick, stone, and ironwork that reference historic structures in the district. Parking is placed underground; development of the site also included a community garden and 19 single-family townhouses designed by the Architectural Team, Inc., of Chelsea, Massachusetts.

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