Though Cleveland, Ohio, may not be hailed as a global center of innovation currently, a new medical mart and convention center could change that as early as this summer.
Situated on more than 1 million square feet of real estate near Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, the newly renamed Global Center for Health Innovation, which was poised to open in July—now is scheduled for completion June 1. This is not only ahead of schedule, but the project is coming in under budget too, according to the center’s spokesperson Dave Johnson.
The $465 million, taxpayer-funded venture—the largest construction project in Cleveland history—broke ground in January 2011. Doors will open in time to host the National Senior Summer Games in July, which will attract 15,000 athletes aged 50 and older. Starting soon after, the city of Cleveland, whose previous convention center was built in 1928, will play host to at least 59 conventions and events in the new spaces.
When events aren’t being held, the Global Center for Health Innovation will be open to the public. The building, designed to attract doctors and hospital executives to the area, will have four floors of permanent tenants showcasing healthcare-related exhibits where visitors can learn about new medical technologies, take classes, and receive equipment training. “As a member of the general public or as a hospital CEO, this is like the Epcot of the healthcare industry,” Johnson says.
Most recently, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a nonprofit organization in Chicago with about 50,000 members, signed a one-floor lease in the facility. The five other paying tenants that will fill nearly 100,000 square feet of display space are Philips Healthcare, GE Healthcare, Johnson Controls, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals.
In addition to an 11,000-square-foot ballroom in the medical mart, the adjacent convention center has 35 meeting rooms that comprise more than 90,000 square feet, and a 32,000-square-foot lakefront Grand Ballroom. Its biggest feature, a 230,000-square-foot exhibit hall, can also be divided into three separate halls. Of the 59 events planned for the center through 2015, 28 are meetings or conferences and 31 are trade or consumer shows, with 215,000 total estimated attendees.
One question remaining before the Global Center for Health Innovation opens this year is whether or not it will succeed in Cleveland’s struggling economy. Johnson argues that Cleveland always had the “four fingers” of a successful meeting destination—hotels (there are more than 4,600 rooms downtown), easy access to nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, a safe and walkable downtown area, and additional entertainment such as a rich theater scene and professional sports teams. This new facility, he says, will become the “thumb.” The project has already generated an advance economic impact of nearly $100 million for the city.
Though similar medical mart projects in Nashville and New York City failed to get off the ground as recently as 2012, Cleveland’s proximity to major healthcare providers and manufacturers makes its own version of the idea less likely to be a “mistake by the lake,” says Johnson. With renowned healthcare providers Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals right in its backyard, as well as 600 biomedical companies located in Northeast Ohio alone, the Global Center for Health Innovation could live up to its name sooner than one might think. “At a very basic level, Cleveland is the nation’s medical capital,” Johnson says. “Cleveland has really reinvented itself.”