JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Mercy Health System decided last year to build its new hospital at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard, Jim Brown and Nancy Hutson knew immediately that change was coming.
Brown is the mayor of Redings Mill, one of the villages south of Joplin nearest the hospital; Hutson is an owner of Cycle Connection Harley-Davidson, 5014 Hearnes Blvd., the nearest business.
They are wondering what that change might look like in three years or so when the hospital opens.
Local real estate agents say they might not have to wait too long to see that change. It’s already under way and will only grow in momentum when highway improvements near the hospital are made this spring and the opening of the hospital gets closer.
Others, like Dr. Cindy Croy, whose medical office was destroyed by the May 22, 2011, tornado, decided to jump right in with both feet. She is building a new office building on South Main Street so her practice will be close to both the new Mercy and Freeman Health System.
Some commercial and residential properties along Main Street, south of 26th Street, and Hearnes Boulevard, south of 32nd Street, have already been listed; some, such as the Capri Motel, have already changed hands with an eye toward redevelopment. Strip malls with space for offices also are being planned for vacant land along South Main Street.
Underlying the commercial property changes is another change in the value of property near the hospital — the increase in home values.
“You can’t help but see it grow,’’ said David Glenn, a local commercial real estate agent. “There will be a need for upscale housing for doctors and support staff. They will want to live within 10 to 15 minutes of their work.
“That has increased the value of the residential property all around that hospital, which, if you ask me, is going to be like a billboard on Interstate 44 for Joplin. It’s going to be fabulous for Joplin.’’
The quaint little village of Redings Mill along picturesque Shoal Creek has a population of 151. Houses sell there from time to time. It’s not what you would call a beehive of activity.
“After it was announced that Mercy had bought that land, the calls started coming in,’’ said Mayor Jim Brown. “I had many, many calls asking if there were any places down here for sale or if there was any ground that could be bought.
“We have had several people come here on weekends, and drive around and look at places. I think the new hospital is going to have an impact on us for sure.”
The village, located a mile south of the construction site, has a water system, but no sewer system. It has three prominent businesses. Only the Redings Mill Inn and Redings Mill Storage are operating. Arde’s Villa, the former site of the Redings Mill Pool, is for sale.
Brown said it is likely people seeking land for home construction will go even farther south into Newton County.
“There are at least a couple of housing subdivisions being built on farm land south of Spring City. I think that area will be a good place for new houses,’’ he said. “What that means for us is that our Highway 86 is going to be heavily traveled in the future by people who build homes out here and use that highway to get to work.’’
Hutson, of Cycle Connection, said she was ecstatic when she realized that her business would be the closest commercial development to the hospital.
“Developers called us immediately about buying our property. We did not want to make a rash decision. We needed to figure out what’s best for us. It was: ‘Wait a second, we’ve got three years or so before the hospital is finished. Let’s think about this,’” she said.
“We first thought this area is going to explode. We’ll have incredible visibility and exposure. It will be great for business,’’ she said. “Then, we let the information soak in.
“We are thinking: Is this what God wants us to do? What if he is opening another door? What if we are not supposed to be here and this is an opportunity for us to relocate someplace else?’’ she said.
After further thought, the decision was made to list the property for sale at $6.75 million because of the increase in the value of the land and the improvements that had been made to it over the years. That money could then be used to defer the cost of relocation to another site.
“Our business is doing very well and this is a great location for us. Now, we have this option to see if the opportunity might present itself,’’ she said. “There will be a surge in activity next spring when they do the highway work. Who knows what might happen after that,’’ she said.
“The word fluid is exactly right in describing what’s happening here. We really could find ourselves in a position where we could relocate. That’s how fluid it is.’’
Some not happy
To the east of the new hospital, in the village of Leawood, not everyone is happy with their new neighbor and the $350 million hospital campus now under construction.
Denny Desmond, chairman of the board of trustees, has made no secret of his opposition to commercial development within the village limits since Sisters of Mercy Health System purchased 103 acres adjoining the western edge of the village. The hospital site is in Joplin’s city limits.
“We are committed to maintaining Leawood as a residential village,” Desmond said soon after the Mercy announcement. “We don’t see any need for commercial (zones) within our village; it compromises our residents.”
Village officials, citing concerns about traffic and insufficient infrastructure, blocked a proposed development by David Powell, who wanted to develop land near 44th Street and Connecticut Avenue, west of Silver Creek Galleria. He wanted 42.5 acres rezoned from agricultural to commercial, and discussed the possibility of restaurants, a grocery store and medical offices. During a village hearing, 58 residents spoke against Powell’s plan, while three were in favor of it.
Rather than face a legal battle with Powell, village leaders later deannexed the land, which was then brought into Joplin. Joplin officials were willing to allow some commercial development, but disagreed with Powell over what level of development was appropriate for the property.
Powell could not be reached for comment.
Dr. Cindy Croy was looking at South Main as the site for her new office building to replace her office that existed at 25th Street and Jackson Avenue before the tornado. She found available land at the northwest corner of 28th and Main streets where some storefronts had been badly damaged by the storm.
“We looked at different properties and what we thought might be the best location for the future,’’ she said. “I wanted a good location for my practice and to make a good investment. And, I really wanted Main Street.
“We purchased this property after the announcement by Mercy,’’ she said. “It’s an opportunity to be a little closer and have easier access to both hospitals. I’m independent. I use both hospitals.’’
Croy constructed a 10,000-square-foot building that would be large enough to house her family practice and also provide space for a retail business or restaurant.
“We think we are in a good spot. It’s exciting to be on this part of Main Street during this renaissance. We can only imagine what this area will look like five years from now,’’ she said.
What experts think
“The new hospital will be the major anchor for that entry way into Joplin,’’ said Troy Bolander, Joplin’s city planner. “All of our Interstate 44 entry ways had anchors except that one. The hospital is now enticing new development to that area.’’
Bolander said the City Council and the city’s planning and zoning commission will be guiding development in that area so that it is compatible with the hospital. The master planner will not be involved in that area.
“These will be services that will complement the hospital — the offices and other support services, such as restaurants, that will support the visitors and employees of that hospital in that area,’’ he said.
“It’s happening now. Once the infrastructure is in place and the hospital is getting ready to open, that will make adjacent properties more conducive for development.’’
Gil Stevens, a Joplin real estate agent, said, “The area around the hospital is not primed yet for immediate development. That situation will be a whole lot better a couple of years from now when the streets out there are redone.
“When the hospital gets closer to the finish line, that’s when there will be more activity.’’
Construction of a roundabout is being planned for 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard. A second roundabout will be constructed in front of the hospital on 50th Street, the elevation of which will be lowered significantly by the time the hospital opens.
“I’m getting inquiries from people about the property out there. We have had some lookers. Nothing has happened yet,’’ Stevens said. “I think it’s going to be a lot like what happened where the old hospital used to be. It’s built and the development takes place around it.’’
Past and future
John Farnen, executive director of strategic projects for Sister of Mercy Health System, said the past should serve as a guide to the future.
“Usually, all of the property values around a new hospital increase. The land directly around the hospital becomes commercial, with restaurants and gas stations,’’ he said. “They want to open around the hospital because there will be several thousand people there — the patients, the customers and the employees. You’ll need a whole lot of business support for the facility.’’
Farnen said the impact on residential property could be even greater.
“There will be an increase in the number of people we need. We’re going to be hiring people to run this facility. That will affect all of the housing around there. You would expect it to go up because there will be more demand for it.’’
Farnen said Mercy hospital also will be making improvements to the streets around the hospital, including 50th Street and South Indiana Avenue.
“We are lowering 50th Street and taking the blind spots out of it and Indiana. We want to improve the safety of all of the streets around that hospital because of the school (South Middle School),’’ he said. “Usually, when we build a hospital, it’s good for property values — they often double — and that becomes a positive for the community.’’