In a two-mile stretch along Cleveland Avenue in Westerville, three major central Ohio health systems are expanding.

In a two-mile stretch along Cleveland Avenue in Westerville, three major central Ohio health systems are expanding.

To the south, Mount Carmel is investing $110 million in its largest ever hospital expansion at St. Ann's Hospital, adding an 111,230-square-foot tower that will include a cardiovascular intensive care unit, four operating rooms, catheterization labs, an emergency-room chest-pain unit and 60 beds for cardiovascular patients.

The expansion also includes a new main entrance, a parking deck and renovations to the dining area and service areas.

At Cleveland Avenue and County Line Road, Nationwide Children's Hospital is constructing a two-story, 46,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery center. With the completion of the building, which joins Children's Close to Home and an orthopedic center, the Westerville campus will become Nationwide Children's largest off-site location.

Capping off the medical corridor is OhioHealth's Westerville Medical Campus at 300 Polaris Parkway, which has a two-story, 46,000-square-foot facility that will include a freestanding emergency department on the first floor and advanced cardiology services on the second floor.

Representatives from all three health systems and the city say Westerville's location, expanding population and demand for services all are driving the health care boom.

"When you look at where Westerville is, it's kind of on the north end of that Franklin County market," said Bob Gilbert, OhioHealth Neighborhood Care senior operations officer. "You've got great access to the community. … Westerville, fortunately, at 270 and 71, is in the crosshairs."

Demand from the community for more and specialized services also has led growth, said St. Ann's president Janet Meeks.

And as specialty services grow, more people come into the community from the surrounding areas to seek those harder-to-find services, she said.

"Westerville really has become a health care hub. We know the people of this area want to stay home to receive sophisticated health care services," Meeks said.

"People love their hometown hospital, and so they want to come here for their care.

We're also seeing a broader number of our patients come from farther and farther away."

With an ambulatory surgery center being added to the Children's campus, Libbey Huang, planning and business development director for the hospital, said she expects to see even more people traveling into Westerville for services.

"Our hope is that we would have more of a regional pull for that," Huang said.

In addition to drawing health care users to the city, the expanding hospital systems also draw new health-related businesses, said Westerville economic development administrator Jason Bechtold.
As the hospitals have come in and expanded, medical offices and health care companies have moved in along the Cleveland Avenue corridor to support them, Bechtold said.

"Those are anchor uses in the Cleveland Avenue corridor," he said. "You can see some of those other uses (move in). It's exciting to see this dynamic."

The abundance of health care services in the Westerville area also serves as a draw for potential residents and potential businesses considering a move into the community because they provide an added amenity and support Westerville's reputation as a community focused on health and wellness, Bechtold said.

"There's just that energy from the health care service that's value-added," he said. "It's definitely a strong suit for our community."

The current growth of health care facilities in Westerville also isn't likely to be the last of the expansions at St. Ann's, Children's and OhioHealth.

Nationwide Children's has acquired enough land at its location to add a fourth building to the campus.

"Once we get this building open, we'll likely determine what services might need to go into (a forth building)," Huang said. "It's probably going to be a few years before we would open that."

St. Ann's has a master plan before Westerville City Council for approval that shows the future addition of medical offices and other medical uses on outlots along Cleveland Avenue and at Schrock and Cooper roads, though any planning for those buildings would be further into the future.

That's a reflection of the community, said OhioHealth's Gilbert, as Westerville and the areas just to the north still have plenty of open spaces that could accommodate more homes or businesses.

"It's been growing, and it's got plenty of room to grow in the future," Gilbert said of Westerville.