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How Inova Aims To Shape The Future Of Healthcare With Its New 117-Acre Campus

Inova Health System aims to be on the cutting edge of medical research trends such as wellness and personalization, and it is using real estate as a way to achieve that goal. 

A rendering of Inova's renovation of the existing buildings on the Merrifield campus

The healthcare provider plans to build a campus of up to 15M SF on the 117-acre former Exxon Mobil campus in Merrifield it acquired in 2015, and the project is already well underway. 

Inova Realty President Tom McDuffie said Inova is currently renovating the site's existing buildings, with an expected completion of 2019, and it hopes to break ground on the first phase of new construction next year as well.

"What this helps [to] do is create a new innovation district in Northern Virginia," said McDuffie, who will be speaking May 15 at Bisnow's The State of Mid-Atlantic Healthcare event in D.C. 

Inova's adaptive reuse plan for the five existing buildings on the site

The campus sits at the interchange of the Beltway and Route 50, across Gallows Road from Inova Fairfax Hospital and Inova Children's Hospital. It currently consists of a conference center and four office buildings, which Inova is in the process of renovating for a variety of medical and research uses. Inova has five hospitals in Fairfax, Alexandria, Mount Vernon, Fair Oaks and Loudoun County totaling 1,796 beds and 17,500 employees.

Inova has presented plans to Fairfax County for the first phase of new construction, which would add 3.5M SF of new development to the existing 1.5M SF on the site. It would be anchored by a University of Virginia academic center, and would also include 950K SF of research buildings, a 250K SF hotel, 100K SF of retail and roughly 500K SF of housing, composed of student housing for the campus and workforce housing for the employees. 

McDuffie said Inova is ready to begin construction now, but estimates it is probably a year away from receiving the necessary approvals. That would give it a projected groundbreaking of mid-to-late 2019, but McDuffie said he hopes that can be expedited. 

"We have made the county aware that medicine and invention will not stop, and as these projects take longer to go through the design and approval process, there is more opportunity for us to lose the researchers and tenants and folks today that would like to be with us on this campus," he said. 

The site plan for the 5M SF Phase 1 of Inova's Merrifield campus

The campus will focus on the areas of healthcare Inova sees as driving the future of the industry, such as prevention and wellness. The research areas will focus on curing diseases such as cancer and innovating with genomic research, looking at individuals' genetic makeup to deliver personalized care.

"We believe with the rapid changes in technology and innovation, it will really help us understand how to best allocate our capital dollars," McDuffie said. "Our strategies for growth deal with all of those factors of how we become personalized with care to patients, how we get closer to discoveries and the use of those inventions in our care." 

While the current proposal in front of the county asks for 3.5M SF of new construction on the western portion of the site, it forecasts much more growth down the road. Inova eventually plans to triple the site's density, building out as much as 15M SF of mixed-use space on the 117-acre campus. 

"We want them to know this site will eventually grow over the years, and we'll need the opportunity to come back and talk about growth beyond 5M SF," McDuffie said. "What form that takes right now is too early to tell. We think about how much healthcare and technology has changed in the last 10 years, it would take a futurist to determine what it's going to be in the next 20." 

McDuffie will discuss Inova's plans and his outlook for the industry at Bisnow's The State of Mid-Atlantic Healthcare event May 15 at the Willard InterContinental in D.C.