Cuyahoga County has struck a deal to buy the final piece of land needed to assemble the property for Cleveland’s proposed medical mart.
The $3.1 million option to purchase the Sportsman Restaurant ends a lengthy process of negotiations and appears to pave the way for groundbreaking to begin in October, as scheduled.
The purchase brings to $38 million the total that the county spent to assemble property for the 520,000-square-foot medical mart, more than double what the developer, Chicago-based MMPI, showed in a budget near the end of 2009.
Though not unexpected, the purchase agreement is a welcome sign of progress for the $425 million medical mart project, which is likely Cleveland’s most important construction project in years. Cleveland is in the midst of a three-way race with Nashville and New York to open the nation’s first medical products showcase.
While New York’s medical mart plans appear in jeopardy, Nashville has shown steady progress in recent months with the announcement of two prospective tenants. MMPI has yet to publicly announce the signing of any tenants.
Also of concern to Cleveland is that, at 1.5 million square feet, Nashville’s proposed medical mart encompasses more than twice the space of Cleveland’s. That size disparity appears to have been a factor in why one of Nashville’s committed tenants selected that project over Cleveland’s.
Nonetheless, Cleveland has a huge advantage that Nashville can’t boast–an identified source of funding, a point that local officials never tire of making. A county sales tax hike has thus far yieled roughly $90 million for the medical mart. With no source of public funding, Nashville’s developers must prelease 60 to 70 percent of the project’s space before they can secure a loan–likely a tall order in a depressing economic climate.