For years the northeast corner of 38th Street and Arlington Avenue has brought little but blight to the surrounding community.
The Value City that once stood there closed a decade ago, leaving a boarded-up shell and parking lot pocked with potholes in its wake. Two summers ago, a pop-up party drew hundreds and a stray bullet killed a 16-year-old girl driving nearby.
But new life will soon come to the barren lot. On Thursday, Eskenazi Health officials announced they will build a new primary health care center on the site, one that will be the largest in its portfolio of about a dozen outpatient clinics.
Scheduled to open in 2024, the new center is the lion’s share of a $50 million investment in capital improvements that the public hospital will make in primary care.
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The new health center is just the latest in a series of projects aimed at revitalizing the community, including Cook Medical’s new manufacturing plant just down 38th Street, a new locally owned grocery store, and a few years in the future, IndyGo’s purple line.
“The east side’s got a lot going on,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett at a ceremony Thursday announcing the new project. “Today our city is more focused and invested in the health of our community than perhaps at any time before in our city’s history.”
The new health center will offer physical and mental health care for children and adults and feature a café and teaching kitchen as well as community space.
At 95,000 square feet, the new center will be significantly larger than any of Eskenazi’s other outpatient centers and more than twice the size of its current largest site at West 38th Street. Designs for the new campus include outdoor spaces and walking trails to encourage wellness as well as community rooms. An urban farm on the site will serve as a source of healthy foods for patients and staff.
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The Marion County Public Health Department, which like Eskenazi Health falls under the aegis of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, will also have space on site.
“This is a one of a kind health center,” said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director and chief medical officer of the department. “No one has a model of the integration of services that is offered, which you’re going to see with this new Community Health Center.”
Community residents like Phyllis Durr-Stokes welcome the new addition to the neighborhood, which is projected to open in 2024.
In 1974, Durr-Stokes gave birth to her son at what was then General Hospital. The hospital would assume the Wishard name a year later, to be replaced by Eskenazi Hospital in 2011. Since 2007 Durr-Stokes has received care at Eskenazi’s Forest Manor center.
Over the course of a few months in 2020, Durr-Stokes lost her aunt to Alzheimer’s and her fiancé to stomach cancer, diagnosed just a few weeks before he died. Knowing she had served as caregiver for both her loved ones, the Forest Manor staff called to check up on her and sent her food.
The gesture was in keeping with her all her experiences over the years as a patient, Durr-Stokes, 63, said.
“It seems like when you walk in there’s a whole different atmosphere — love, family, people help you,” said Durr-Stokes, who lives a few blocks away. “They took care of me.”
Once the new center opens, Eskenazi will close its North Arlington and Forest Manor sites nearby, said Dr. Dawn Haut, CEO of Eskenazi Health Center’s primary care division. The new center will allow for 20% growth.
The building will house 72 exam rooms, 30 consultation rooms, a community center, dental suite with eight exam chairs, an optometry suite, and an imaging suite with X-ray, MRI, mammography and ultrasound machines.
Post-pandemic many health systems have struggled to maintain staffing levels but Haut said Eskenazi has not had trouble recruiting physicians so far. The health system is also working to hire medical assistants and health care technicians early in their careers and encourages them to move up. Eskenazi also tries to place staff members when possible at sites in the communities in which they live.
The new center have broad reaching implications for the community, said Ashley Gurvitz, executive director and CEO of the Alliance for Northeast Unification, which aims to improve quality of life in the area.
“We’re really excited to know that Eskenazi is setting a larger footprint within our east side,” she said. “We now know that this space will be equitable, and create better access to healthier and happier lives. The health of our community is one of the most important vital resources that we have.”