Policy

Cleveland medical mart: Is free space giveaway a concern?

There are solid reasons to doubt the long-term viability of the Cleveland medical mart — or any medical mart, for that matter — but the fact that its developers are giving away free space to educational institutions isn’t one of them. MMPI, the Chicago-based property developer behind the Cleveland medical mart, has offered rent-free space […]

There are solid reasons to doubt the long-term viability of the Cleveland medical mart — or any medical mart, for that matter — but the fact that its developers are giving away free space to educational institutions isn’t one of them.

MMPI, the Chicago-based property developer behind the Cleveland medical mart, has offered rent-free space to Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College, The Plain Dealer reported. MMPI will even go so far as to pay Cleveland State $50,000 to construct a display for the university’s space in the mart.

For medical mart skeptics, this sounds like red meat.

But it’s important to note that MMPI has been talking about subsidizing space all along. Mark Falanga, a vice president with the company, told the Cleveland City Council exactly that, according to an excellent, but sadly undated article from Inside Business.

“We believe we will need to subsidize those showrooms heavily to get [potential tenants] to try something new,” Falanga told council. “It’s going to take many years for this to ramp up.”

(Slightly more concerning is MMPI’s plan to give away free space and pay a $20,000 subsidy to a Michigan furniture company, but even that move fits with Falanga’s prediction.)

Plus, Cleveland’s competition in the medical mart race — a project in Nashville — has also agreed to give away space to two educational tenants, Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University, a Nashville project spokesman told The Plain Dealer.

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Admittedly, these developments don’t do much to inspire confidence in the medical mart concept, but at the same time, they really shouldn’t be cause for hand-wringing.

If you want to choose reasons to doubt the medical mart concept, you have better options — like the lack of many big-name tenants in the Cleveland project and the fact that nearly 65 percent of the companies that have shown interest are based in Ohio.