San Francisco Business Times: Winner / best health: John Muir’s Tom & Billie Long Patient Care Tower

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San Francisco Business Times: Winner / best health: John Muir’s Tom & Billie Long Patient Care Tower   

John Muir Health’s new $612 million Tom and Billie Long Patient Care Tower in Walnut Creek wasn’t the easiest hospital project to design and implement.

It started during a period of “unprecedented construction cost escalation,” according to Muir, and much of the actual construction occurred during one of the worst economic stretches in modern history. Another huge challenge: fitting the new six-story, 380,000-square-foot structure into the existing multi-building John Muir Medical Center campus, and making a total of 25 connections to adjacent structures.

John Muir, an independent nonprofit community hospital system with medical centers in Walnut Creek and Concord, plus a growing physician network, completed the massive project last April, after three years of construction and a cumulative nine years of planning and prep work.

The new glass, metal and limestone tower boasts 242 inpatient beds, all but 12 of them in private rooms, three added inpatient surgical suites (for a total of 13) and 24 private critical care beds. The bed count also includes 16 pediatric beds and in the new birth center, 35 postpartum beds and 35 neonatal intensive care beds. The expanded Emergency Department has 44 treatment beds, twice as many as previously.

And the expansion project roughly doubled the size of the campus, which had been 375,000 square feet before the new tower was added.

All told, the new tower constitutes Phase 4 of a strategic plan that goes up to Phase 8, according to Michael Monaldo, Muir’s vice president of facilities development and corporate real estate. The Walnut Creek campus’s strategic plan stresses flexibility, Monaldo said, and the new tower fits into a vision that includes plans to add several new structures as older buildings need to be replaced or repurposed.

The project’s phased construction process “allowed us to control costs and ‘shell’ spaces for occupancy based on future need,” said Muir spokesman Ben Drew. For example, the tower’s fifth floor opened in October of last year, six months after most of the new structure, “and the new cafeteria and gift shop are still to be constructed.”

Construction of the new ER was also done in stages, adding to the cost of that portion of the project, but shaving a year off the overall construction timetable and saving $33 million in overall construction costs.

Separately, John Muir completed a $212 million inpatient tower at its Concord campus in November 2010. Both big projects came in on time and under budget, according to Monaldo.

Funding the huge projects in Concord and Walnut Creek, including a 780-space parking garage and 20,000-square-foot central utility plant in Walnut Creek, came from a variety of sources, including $400 million in bonds, $369 million in John Muir system reserves and $55 million in philanthropy. The latter included $2 million contributed by nearly 1,600 physicians and employees. The Thomas J. Long Foundation contributed a $9.5 million lead gift for the Walnut Creek tower.

Cal Knight took over as John Muir Health’s chief executive officer in early April 2011, a few weeks before the new tower opened. But that project, and the big expansion/rebuild at Muir’s Concord campus, were a huge part of the legacy of longtime CEO Ken Anderson, who ran the system for more than three decades, retiring just weeks before the Walnut Creek tower was completed.

WINNER

Location: 1601 Ygnacio Road, Walnut Creek
Size: 380,000 square feet
Cost: $612 million
Contractor: Clark Construction
Architect: Ratcliff Architects
Engineer: Mazzetti Nash Lipsey
Law firm: Morrison Foerster