The NEW Center is a case study in the transformative power of a successfully structured, developed and operated medical fitness and wellness center. It is not the result of the application of a cookie cutter approach or a preconceived notion of what a wellness center “should be”. Rather, it reflects Signet’s and IWP’s commitment to delivering a one of a kind facility that is designed, programmed and managed to meet the unique vision, goals and needs of our project partners and the communities the center serves.
For nearly the entirety of its first 40 years of its existence, NEOMED was a state medical school that was meant to serve the graduate medical education needs of northeast Ohio. Located in rural Portage County, NEOMED was a commuter school that was the daytime destination for approximately 1,500 medical school students, faculty and staff. It was a busy place from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday but was virtually deserted at those times when classes were not in session. Furthermore, the school had historically had a very “arm’s length” relationship with the surrounding communities. Rarely did community members have cause to come to campus and on the occasions that they did, they were greeted by security guards that would escort them to their destination.
With his arrival in 2010, the new president of NEOMED made a number of strategically important decisions that would transform the institution, its relationship with its students, faculty and staff as well as the surrounding communities. He determined that a true campus life had to be created to expand the recruiting power of the university for both high caliber students and faculty as well as engender a greater sense of institutional loyalty, support and giving among these key constituencies. In addition, he also committed to instituting mechanisms to more positively engage with the communities of Portage County and to make them feel welcome on campus. To this end, he embarked on a dramatic campus makeover that included the building of new research facilities, the establishment of attractive campus student housing opportunities and the development of a state-of-the-art wellness and education center.
In February of 2012, Signet Development won a very competitive RFP process to develop and operate both the student housing facilities and wellness center. The 270,000 sq. ft., $36 million housing project (The Village at NEOMED) broke ground in June 2012 and received its first student residents in August 2013. The 180,000 sq ft, $85 million health and wellness center broke ground in December 2012 and opened to the campus population and residents of surrounding communities in August of 2014. All totaled, Signet provided approximately $120 million of new development for NEOMED, more than doubling the size of campus.
The NEW Center was intended to meet a variety of needs for several different constituencies. First, it was meant to serve the broadly defined health and wellness promotion needs for NEOMED students, faculty and staff as well as those of the surrounding communities. The medical fitness component of the NEW Center currently has more than 2,500 active members enrolled. Membership is roughly evenly split, with half of the members coming from the NEOMED campus and half the membership coming from the community.
Additionally, the center is now the home of NEOMED’s comprehensive faculty and staff worksite wellness program designed to reduce direct medical costs and absenteeism while increasing productivity and classroom performance. Furthermore, the center has been incorporated into the academic curriculum for NEOMED students. Starting with fall semester 2015, it is evident that the NEW Center has indeed become a dynamic new venue enhancing the educational experience for NEOMED students and faculty. At any point during the day, students fill its 350 seat, state-of-the-art lecture auditorium and its multiple smaller classroom and small group breakout rooms spread throughout the facility.
Third, the NEW Center has filled the void that the lack of a formal student union has left. With its many informal student study carrels, inviting soft-seating areas and designated student lounge incorporated within the large atrium space, the center has become a focal point for student interaction and relationship building. Students in jeans and t-shirts sit across the table from classmates in business attire and white lab coats studying, talking about the lecture they just left or enjoying a cup of tea or a quick lunch conveniently located just a few steps away at the two food and beverage offerings off the atrium.
Fourth, the center has far exceeded expectations in fostering engagement with the surrounding communities. Whether they are one of the more than 1,200 individual community members of the medical fitness center, a patient visiting their primary care physician or having a physical therapy appointment, an executive attending a business meeting in the center’s event facilities or neighbors getting together for lunch at the healthy bistro, the NEW Center has truly become a hub for community wellness and social activity.
And the positive impact the center has had on the community doesn’t stop there. The center is also home to Ohio’s top performing STEM high school, the Bio-Med Science Academy, with more than 300 students focused on getting an early start on a path toward careers in the sciences and medicine. Furthermore, working collaboratively with NEOMED and the clinical partner in the project (Summa Health), the NEW Center serves as a platform from which initiatives such as worksite wellness services for the local business community and school-based wellness education and engagement programs are launched. Finally, the center is also driving substantive increased economic activity locally such as a new hotel and additional food and beverage and light retail development to serve the needs of the increased activity associated with the center.
In short, now well into its second year of operations, it is safe to say the NEW Center has exceeded expectations in nearly every regard. It truly has been a catalyst for transformation.
Northeast Ohio Medical University
IWP Services Provided
Wellness Center Development, Management Partner and Worksite Wellness Platform
177,000 Square Feet