Cleveland medical mart update: 70% complete; 22 committed tenants should be named soon

With construction more than 70 percent complete and opening less than a year away, Cleveland’s Medical Mart & Convention Center project should be sharing plans for its 235,000 square feet of permanent showroom space in the next few months.

One question surrounding the publicly financed project has been to what extent it will draw attention to the region’s medical prowess. Dave Johnson, spokesman for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI), the property developer behind the project, said 31 trade shows are confirmed for the new facility. About 60 percent of the confirmed shows are healthcare-related, he said, including the Ohio Optometric Association’s EastWest Eye Conference and the 2014 CleanMed Conference & Exposition. That leaves another 40 percent that aren’t healthcare related —  like the Ohio Music Education Association’s annual conference and the National Senior Games next summer — to help bring people into the city.

That seems like a reasonable balance of events, and Johnson said there are another 50 or so trade shows in the pipeline. County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced in July that the convention center would open two months ahead of schedule on July 1, 2013 (the medical mart will still open in September).


And, the $465 million project is operating under budget.

But another big question surrounding the project — whether it can secure top-tier healthcare tenants who would attract hospital purchasing managers to visit — still remains unanswered.  An initial list released last summer of companies that signed letters of intent was underwhelming. Since then, MMPI has been working on converting letters of intent into actual tenants.

According to Johnson, 22 leases have been signed and MMPI has another 96 active prospects. The committed tenants account for about 40 percent of the showroom space in the building. “We certainly anticipate beginning to announce tenants as they are comfortable speaking about not only what their space is, but about how they’re going to utilize it,” he said. “I can say with confidence (that will be happening) in the near future.”

A rival project unfolding in Nashville, Tennessee is about a year behind Cleveland but has already announced plans for some of its showroom space including themed, multivendor spaces that will be occupied by health IT group HIMSS and the RFID in Healthcare Consortium.

MMPI has also been working with an industry advisory board that’s helping shape what kind of companies and themes the Cleveland medical mart will have. The hope is that some of the big names on the board like Cardinal Health, C.R. Bard, GE Healthcare, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Philips Healthcare and Stryker will eventually convert into tenants themselves.

Johnson said he expects 50 tenants to be on board by opening.

[Photo from MMPI]

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