Rooftops lure businesses. Apparently they also attract health care systems.

In a few years, north Colorado Springs will be home to three medical campuses: UCHealth Memorial North; Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs; and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services’ third medical campus.

Denver-based Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners announced in a Feb. 14 news release that Centura, the parent company of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, paid $30 million for 57.8 acres off Interquest Parkway and Interstate 25 to construct its new medical campus.

The development firm purchased 77 acres in 2016 and is in the process of building the 288-unit FalconView luxury apartments that will be next to the medical facility on the remaining about 19 acres.

Brian Erling, president and CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, said the plan is to build an orthopedic center of excellence at the site and eventually add to it.

“We’re currently working with our orthopedic physicians on what needs to be there, what it needs to look like,” he said. “They’re going to be involved from the ground up on what that building will include and how that building is structured.”

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The site will be able to transform into a “community hospital” as the population grows and the health care demand increases, Erling said.

“We are already in the design phase [for the orthopedic center],” he said. “I would hope personally that will be breaking ground within a year.”

Erling said that’s being “aggressive,” but that’s the approach they want to take with the project.

“We want to move quickly,” he said. “Once we break ground, we expect it to be probably two years of build [for the orthopedic center].”

In early December, it was announced that Centura had sold a site in west Colorado Springs that was going to replace Penrose Hospital.

Instead, Erling said the North Nevada campus will be renovated over about a 10-year period.

“We’re planning on investing $300 to $400 million in [Penrose], so it can continue to be a tertiary care center right here in the center of town,” he said.

A decision was made in the latter part of last year to abandon the Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street campus because of its proximity to Penrose, Erling said.

“When we looked at the different demographics and the different health care needs, we projected [a population] increase of over 100,000 people during the next seven to 10 years,” he said. “… All of that growth is moving north and northeast.”

Together as one

Tamera Dunseth Rosenbaum, chief nursing officer for Memorial North, said one of the reasons a $129 million expansion was done at the Briargate Parkway campus is because of the area’s population boom.

“That’s the largest area of growth in our community right now,” she said. “It’s where a lot of younger families are moving to and that’s why it made sense that we expanded what services we did there.”

The 130,000-square-foot addition includes expanded women’s and oncology services, Rosenbaum said, adding it opens to patients Feb. 25.

“The largest part of the expansion is definitely maternal/child,” she said. “That alone takes up the second and third floor of the new tower.”

Rosenbaum said the two floors include 12 labor, delivery and recovery rooms; two operating room suites; 24 mother/baby rooms; six emergency bays; and six high-risk antepartum rooms.

“The third floor also is connected to Children’s Hospital via a bridge,” she said. “If a mom were to deliver and the baby were to need neonatal intensive care unit care, we would walk that baby right across into the NICU at Children’s.”

Rosenbaum said the reasons for expanding Memorial North went beyond the area’s growth; it was also because of its partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado and its neighboring facility.

“It’s really an incredible collaboration between UCHealth and Children’s,” she said. “They’ve had a significant presence on our Memorial Central campus, and we’re really looking forward to expanding that partnership and working more closely together on our North campus.”

Greg Raymond, regional chief operating officer for Children’s Colorado’s Southern region, said the $165 million, 294,000-square-foot facility on the Memorial North campus is on schedule to open to patients later this spring.

“We anticipate to start moving staff into the building the first week of March,” he said. “We’re going to take our time doing that because we’ve got to fully equip the building; we’ve got to orient all of our team members; we’ve got to do all of our simulation trainings — all those types of things that you would expect with opening a new medical campus.”

Raymond said locating on the Memorial North campus allowed Children’s to reduce its capital expenses by sharing a central utility plant.

“Additionally, we were able to leverage their clinical lab as well their food service,” he said. “We didn’t have to duplicate those three things and spend money on those more ancillary types of services as opposed to direct patient care or spaces that facilitate direct patient care.”

Too much competition?

Colorado Springs is lucky to have two competing health systems, Erling said.

“This community is very fortunate to have two thriving health systems and options in the market,” he said.

Erling believes the demand for the three campuses up north exists, citing how busy the new St. Francis emergency department has been since opening its doors Feb. 13.

“Within the first two to three days, we had almost every bed full in our emergency department, so there is no doubt in my mind for the need,” he said. “I think that the community is very fortunate to have health systems willing to invest in the community — to make sure that the health care need is met.”

Selecting a site up north over somewhere like Fountain came down to the rate at which the population is growing in each place, Erling said.

“[South Colorado Springs] is growing for sure, but we believe the north and northeast is growing much faster,” he said, adding Centura also has St. Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo.

“We treat all this as sort of one network, so for us to add something south as far as acute care didn’t make nearly as much sense,” he said. “We do plan to be adding primary care and urgent care in the south. We’re not in any way ignoring that part of the community.”