Emory plans huge medical development in Brookhaven

Emory University plans to build a $1 billion medical complex in Brookhaven that would include a hospital, hotel, apartments and miles of walking trails and paths.

Construction of an orthopedic center at the Emory at Executive Park property might start this year, but it could take about 15 years to finish the rest of the "live-work-play"complex. Plans call for a 140-bed, non-emergency inpatient hospital; a six-story apartment building that could be used by employees; and a conference center and hotel, according to information provided by Emory. The complex would connect with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's new North Druid Hills complex.

When it’s all done, Emory’s reach would expand from its main campus to Brookhaven, and could be comparable to “Pill Hill,’’ the Sandy Springs health-care destination that includes Northside, Emory Saint Joseph’s and Children’s Scottish Rite hospitals.

Emory already operates medical offices in Executive Park, including a sports medicine and training facility opened in 2017 in partnership with the Atlanta Hawks.

“This could be Pill Hill Two or Brook Hill,” said John Ernst, mayor of Brookhaven.

Ernst expressed enthusiasm for the project, but said a lot of work needs to be done to ensure the project integrates well into the community. Addressing transportation needs connecting the new medical complex to other medical hubs, such as the main Emory campus and the Sandy Springs area, will be a top priority, he said.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spokesperson Brian Brodrick in an e-mail that “Emory’s decision to create a health innovation district at Executive Park, while making significant associated transportation investments, will be nothing but positive for the area in the years ahead.”

The project is part of Emory’s long-range plans, championed by University president Claire Sterk, to enhance its health-care, educational and research work. Emory believes the new facility would provide the space to do work in areas of health care it expects to see additional growth.

“It’s an opportunity to expand our research and expand the health-care services we offer and to expand opportunities to think about land use on the main campus,” said Robin Morey, Emory’s chief planning officer.

The Executive Park plan would require zoning approval from Brookhaven city leaders. Emory filed rezoning paperwork this week and has scheduled a community meeting for May 20 to discuss the plan.

University officials also said they’re working to address some concerns they’ve heard about traffic. That work includes intersection improvements in the area.

In addition, Emory is planning seven acres of greenspace as part of the project.

A rendering of the proposed North Druid Hills campus of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, which is intended to replace its Egleston location.

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Emory purchased 60 acres in the busy corridor off I-85 near North Druid Hills Road in 2016 to create its proposed mixed-use development. The property is across the street from a $1 billion Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta project, which will include a 446-bed hospital, support buildings, more than 20 acres of greenspace and miles of walking trails and paths. Children’s Center for Advanced Pediatrics, a 260,000-square-foot facility where care for complex conditions will be provided, opened last year.

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Emory officials said in an interview Friday that proximity to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta development and I-85 are some of the features they believe make their plans a worthwhile project.

“Being right off the interstate makes sense,” Morey said.

Emory will seek proposals from companies that may be interested in building the apartment complex. The plans for the conference center and hotel will be market-driven, Morey said.

Christopher Kane, a consultant with Progressive Healthcare, said Emory’s plan is consistent with its market position and health-care industry trends. Orthopedics, sports medicine and neuroscience services are in high demand and a complex offering them will draw everyone from adolescents with athletic injuries to Baby Boomers needing joint replacements, he said.

Still, the orthopedics market is a very competitive, Kane said. He also said he doesn’t think obtaining a certificate of need approval will be obstacle, based on Emory’s reputation and track record.

Including residential spaces in the complex is consistent with urban designs that create an environmentally friendly community, he said. For Emory, it’s also practical, as nearby housing for staff could be a recruiting advantage in a tight labor market.

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