ST. GEORGE — The exterior walls of a new medical center on Riverside Drive were lifted into place early last week, representing the first privately funded office building to be constructed in St. George in the decade since the 2008 Great Recession.
Located at 550 East and 633 East Riverside Drive, Riverfront Medical Center is a planned commercial development that will eventually include three medical office buildings. Construction on the first three-story building and surrounding landscaping is now underway, expected for completion in March.
The 57,000-square-foot medical center will house offices and clinics for a variety of medical professionals, including Desert Pain and Spine; Southern Utah Ear, Nose, and Throat; St. George Eye Center; St. George Orthopedic Spine; FIT Physical Therapy and Fusion Pharmacy, which manage an onsite drive-through pharmacy.
Hughes General Contractors will see the project to completion.
Builders are using tilt-up concrete to construct the building’s frame. Tilt-up construction involves forming the building elements, in this case the walls, horizontally and then lifting them up once they are cured and setting them in place.
The structure’s massive cement walls sprung up within a matter of days after concrete was poured and shaped on site.
Watch builders work on the project in the video top of this report.
“The tilt-up structure is an awesome way to construct a building,” Paul Callister, Southern Utah manager for Hughes General Contractors, said.
Callister has overseen projects using the technique for 17 years in the construction of schools and industrial buildings throughout Southern Utah.
“It’s a great building technique. It’s cost-effective,” he said. “You can get different looks other than your standard stucco, and you can add reveal strips into it.
“The other nice thing about these tilt-up buildings is they’re maintenance-free. When we hand it over to the owners, they don’t have to touch those walls. They don’t have to upkeep paint, they don’t have issues in five years down the road if stucco starts to crack – you don’t have those issues.”
The medical center’s ample parking lot will be dotted with planter islands allowing for fully grown shade trees. The facility’s developers are also paying special attention to making the building accessible to patients.
“It’s designed so patients have the easiest ability to get to the physician and back out again. It has excess parking, it has no dead ends – it’s very user friendly,” project co-developer Brent Davis of Physicians Accounting and Management said.
“They’re medical arts buildings,” he said. “They allow physicians to work together to bring continuity of care.”
In the first building, physicians from pain intervention, orthopedic spine and physical therapy clinics will work together synergistically all on the same floor.
“You’re getting a continuity of care, a whole package all in one building and one level,” Davis said, adding that future phases in the project will provide space for general practitioners with care continuity in mind.
Signs of economic recovery
The project is also a major sign of a recovering economy in Southern Utah, said Tom Callister, the project’s co-developer and director at Cushman and Wakefield Commerce.
“We haven’t had a private office building built in this market for over a decade,” he said. “The costs of construction, land, materials, impact fees – all these things combined have made it difficult.”
As the population in Southern Utah has grown exponentially in recent years, the need for more medical facilities has also grown.
“There’s been a shortage of good medical space to practice here,” Davis said. “It’s situations like that that cause this project to come to be – to allow additional doctors to come into the area and provide a medical facility.”
The medical center also provides much-needed space for private practice physicians in an area otherwise dominated by Intermountain Healthcare.
“Having private practice doctors is just like having multiple restaurants to go eat at,” Davis said. “You have choices. It allows for a more competitive environment among physicians, and they strive to be better, which in turn helps the patients.
“The ultimate goal is to provide good medical care to the community.”
The medical center is being built on land previously zoned for residential and agricultural purposes. The St. George City Council in March unanimously approved a zone change to allow for commercial development.
The development is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and is next to Heritage Elementary School.
“I don’t love it being right behind my house,” said Tiffany Peterson, a homeowner whose backyard directly faces the building’s newly erected frame. “But it’s going to be something eventually, so I’d rather it be a medical center than houses.”
Previous to going before the city to propose the zone change, the project’s developers went door-to-door to neighboring properties to explain plans for the medical center.
“I think it’s going to be a good asset. I love that our city is growing,” neighboring resident Jay Smith said. “I think it’s going to help our property values.”
“If they’d have put housing in here, I wouldn’t have liked it. You don’t know what you’re going to get for neighbors.”
Smith said he has been in favor of the project from the beginning because of the way the developers have been open about communicating with him and his neighbors.
The developer is also installing a 25-foot landscaping barrier with trees and bushes between the medical center and surrounding houses.
“This is a prime example of getting way out in front and trying to communicate with the neighbors,” St. George City Councilman Jimmy Hughes said during the public meeting in which the zone change for the development was approved, “and I want to let them know that we appreciate that and I encourage them to keep doing that as this develops.”
Ed. note: Report revised to include input from the medical center’s physician tenants.
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