Vital Signs

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is planning an outpatient medical office complex in Cool Springs that could eventually reach 500,000 square feet in size and a total investment value of $200 million.

When the news broke in October, it brought one thing to mind: 100 Oaks.

VUMC rehabilitated the blighted 100 Oaks Mall to the tune of $99 million and moved various clinics, outpatient services and business functions into 440,000 square feet of space during 2009. The academic medical center’s second campus sparked a renaissance in Berry Hill, attracting new tenants, restaurants and retailers — including Wal-Mart, which recently purchased property across the street from Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

In essence, VUMC’s plans in Cool Springs will mimic the 100 Oaks model of housing various outpatient services. In its first stage, Vanderbilt will build a 200,000-square-foot, $60 million project on 22 acres of land at McEwen Drive and Carothers. But when VUMC Deputy Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Wright Pinson, MD, MBA, talks about the project, he doesn’t immediately compare it to 100 Oaks. Instead, he likens the area’s future to Nashville’s West End.

“Carothers is clearly going to become the medical corridor of Cool Springs, just like West End is clearly the medical corridor of Nashville,” Pinson said.

West End is littered with medical facilities — Centennial Medical Center, Baptist Hospital, Select Specialty Hospital, Sarah Cannon Cancer Center, Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance, and a plethora of other physician offices and clinics. The VUMC project’s proximity to Williamson Medical Center and its related doctor offices and facilities makes the development already more West End-like than 100 Oaks-y.

VUMC’s investment also is certain to spur additional development in the still-wide-open corridor connecting the Williamson Medical Center area with Cool Springs’ large office complexes. Look for other medical professionals to migrate to the area and be joined by an influx of retail and restaurants — or really any project looking to take advantage of increased patient traffic.

Pinson acknowledges that getting to the project’s max of 500,000 square feet is “a long way away.” But his team’s plans are a welcome reminder of the power of Middle Tennessee’s largest healthcare players to drive our economic development.

Erin Lawley is a reporter at NashvillePost.com, a sister publication of The Medical News. elawley@nashvillepost.com.