Health Care Real Estate: Go North

The growth of Collin County is spurring investment in the region’s health-care infrastructure.

In 2007, when the recent corporate relocations were still distant drumbeats, Children’s Health decided to expand to Plano. Its hospital is on 155 acres, the land separated by a sliver of White Rock Creek that extends north into Collin County like a tree branch. It built first to the west of the creek. It would take 10 years for Children’s Health to develop something on the east side of that water. But in 2017, the region’s leading pediatric health system will open a sports medicine outpost with a concept driven by an orthopedic surgeon who is perhaps the nation’s most famous, Dr. James Andrews. And it will be for children solely. 

This region has changed. Current headlines read like a success-themed MadLibs: Fill in the blanks with a company from another state, another couple thousand jobs, and another real estate development and you’ve got the hang of what has reshaped Collin County. Since 2010, it’s added just over 131,000 people, about a 16 percent jump. It’s the 11th-fastest growing county in Texas, but it is probably important to consider that it added more people than the entire populations of three counties in the top 10. It will almost certainly crest 1 million people in 2017, propelled by the arrivals of companies such as Toyota North America, Liberty Mutual, and FedEx. 

With that sort of growth (the county has just about doubled since 2000), the eyes of its residents and of elected officials begin turning toward infrastructure. Specifically, for the purposes of this piece: will there be enough hospitals to meet the need? 

“They’re chasing the population,” says John Huff, the managing director of health care at brokerage firm Stream Realty. “It used to be, we’d load up our car and drive to where the hospital was, whether it’s 15 minutes away or five minutes away. … But all the urban sprawl went up north, and what went up there were your patients who had good paying insurance and good jobs and had young families.” 

With that sort of growth (the county has just about doubled since 2000), the eyes of its residents and its elected officials begin turning toward infrastructure. Specifically, for the purposes of this piece: will there be enough hospitals to meet the need? Children’s and other provider systems saw opportunities throughout the region as it began popping belt loops. The population was clearly migrating here from Dallas and beyond, and these folks were largely upper middle class and privately insured. The median household income was more than $84,000 in 2015, its per capita income $38,883. Compare that to the state’s median of roughly $53,000 and $27,000, respectively. 

Those are attractive data points for health systems. For those that have been present in the region for decades—like HCA-owned Medical City Plano, formerly the Medical Center of Plano—it meant years of expansions and new service lines. Medical City Plano is on a path to become the county’s only Level I trauma center, the closest other one being in downtown Dallas. Collin has also attracted newcomers, like what was then known as the Baylor Health Care System in 2004 and Children’s in 2007. 

And now that the general acute care services are built out, the systems are building state-of-the-art specialty hospitals. 

“In 1983, the Galleria at the Dallas North Tollway was the top, and beyond that it was cow pastures and grass,” says Dr. David Brown, the president and founder of The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano. This was in 2003, and you can probably guess the strategy Brown used in determining the cardiac surgeons and cardiologists he would target to invest in his idea. 

“They were in the geographic location of what I decided was the future nexus of the universe of Dallas, Texas: The intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and the newly developing George Bush (Turnpike.) The world is going to evolve north.” 

The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano opened in 2007 and has grown into one of the nation’s best centers for cardiac care. 

It was among less than 1 percent of American centers last year to score a full three stars on all three of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ quality categories, and is undergoing a 150,000 square-foot, $100 million expansion. 

Sports medicine appears to be the next opportunity. In addition to the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopedic Sports Medicine, there’s the Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research center at The Star in Frisco, the Dallas Cowboys’ new headquarters. And Scottish Rite Hospital for Children bought 40 acres in Frisco for a full-service hospital and leased another 15,000 square feet in Plano for sports medicine and general pediatric orthopedics. 

“With the type of jobs that have been created in that corridor, you’re seeing a lot more younger families and a lot more opportunities to participate in multiple sports at multiple levels,” says Chad Gilliand, the senior director of the Children’s Health Andrews Institute. 

He says Dr. Andrews got the idea to target children because “he was seeing so many injuries in young athletes that, historically, had been injuries seen in pro players.” 

The Institute will be housed on two of four floors at the Children’s Health Specialty Center II, which will also include physician offices, an imaging suite, outpatient rehab services, an ambulatory surgery center, and research and education space. But the walls of the building aren’t keeping their services in. 

On the day I catch up with Gilliand, he’s speaking from Waco, where he’s been advising the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, on training and education to aid in recovery and prevent injuries. Baylor Scott & White has partnered with Frisco Independent School District to have their high schools play at The Star, the headquarters and training facility of the Dallas Cowboys. 

The city chipped $261 million into the project, and it’s said to be the first between a hospital system and a professional football team. They hope the team effort can fuel research initiatives to combat the development of the neurological disorder CTE, which has been linked to blows to the head. 

“The problem with the concussion issue right now is that it’s based more on emotion than facts,” said Mickey Morgan, a surgeon and chairman of Baylor Medical Center at Frisco. “This facility will provide us the opportunity to study more athletes and we’re hoping that the new diagnosis protocols we develop will spread out from here to the rest of the world.”

And that may be the byproduct that emerges from the growth and the success of Dallas’ northern suburbs. As demand increases, hospital systems are willing to double down on specialties and non-acute services as a community need, as a public good. 

In the groundbreaking ceremony for the sports medicine center at The Star, Frisco Mayor Maher Maso, perhaps the city’s biggest cheerleader, proclaimed the standard politico pontification that accompanies so many of these ceremonies: “The best is yet to come.” 

The evidence hints that he might be right.  

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