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Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center

On October 31, 2012, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced that GE Healthcare and the Cleveland Clinic would serve as the two anchor tenants for the $465 million Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center, opening in July, 2013. GE Healthcare, a $12 billion business, will feature twelve of its innovative medical technologies in an interactive display following the “breast cancer journey” of a hypothetical patient named Grace, as part of the Medical Mart’s second floor, which will focus on people, patients, and caregivers. Other floors will feature: health and home (first), clinical space (third), and health information technologies (fourth). Although the Cleveland Clinic did not specify how it would use its space, the Clinic’s Dr. Toby Cosgrove was an early advocate of the project. Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga County Community College will have rent-free space at the Medical Mart.

This announcement may help assuage critics’ concerns that MMPI (Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.) had yet to announce any confirmed tenants, and that the list of potential tenants featured many furniture makers and designers rather than medical companies. The involvement of GE Healthcare and the Cleveland Clinic may help other smaller companies to commit to participate in the Medical Mart. The suspension of the Nashville Medical Trade Center project on Oct. 11, 2012 may help the Cleveland Medical Mart attract additional tenants, as well. Nashville was not able to procure enough committed tenants. Plans for a 1.5 million-square-foot medical marketplace in New York City were scrapped in January, 2010. A spokesperson said that the medical community was looking for a neutral location to examine medical equipment and conduct educational seminars. Financing presumably was an issue in Nashville and New York, as well.

In the Summer of 2007, Cuyahoga County Commissioners “envisioned the economic benefits that a medical mart, combined with a convention center, would drive to the region,” and passed a 0.25% sales tax to finance the Cleveland project. The local naysayers who claimed the Medical Mart never would be built have been proven wrong. Others wonder whether it will be a final white-elephant homage to the three-person County commissioner system, which seemed, at best, a vehicle for cronyism and, at worst, with respect to one of the commissioners, corruption. Some people questioned then Commissioner Tim Hagan’s connection to MMPI president (at the time) Chris Kennedy. As a federal investigation into political corruption continued, citizens voted for a new county charter and system of government, led by the County Executive.

Helpful “mid-course corrections” in the process of building the Medical Mart include hiring healthcare industry veteran Jim Bennett as Senior Vice President of the Medical Mart; hiring Jeff Appelbaum, an attorney who specializes in construction law, to oversee the construction process; and appointing an Industry Advisory Board to help maintain the healthcare focus of the project. While few residents probably enjoy paying the extra 0.25% sales tax, let us hope that the public-private partnership that will result in the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center provides momentum and synergy with other Downtown projects, such as the Horseshoe Casino, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the recently-expanded (and free) trolley service, to move the City and the region forward.

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