Health warehouse heralded in Detroit

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

A $28 million medical distribution center unveiled in Detroit Wednesday was heralded as a new anchor to spur development near the city’s New Center area.

The Cardinal Health Distribution Center on Rosa Parks Blvd. at McGraw brings 140 new jobs to a mostly blighted neighborhood where dilapidated family homes are interspersed with vacant lots and burned down houses.

The facility is a joint project between nearby Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Medical Center and Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, a supplier of medical and surgical products such as sterile gloves, surgical apparel and intravenous supplies.

“This is the anchor in this neighborhood that will, as you go south and you come upon the Boy Scouts of America building, and you come upon the Woodbridge District and Wayne State University, you see this is the next new neighborhood,” said Conrad Mallett, chief administration officer for the Detroit Medical Center.

“There are 140 employees coming to this facility. What if 10 of them decide to buy a house? Here is the opportunity (for development).”

The project was funded by a combined $30 million in tax credits and incentives from the state of Michigan, city of Detroit and Wayne County.

The 18-acre site was developed by KIRCO, a real estate development, investment and construction company headquartered in Troy. The company’s Founder and Chairman Alan Kiriluk said the year-long construction project was a contest of obstacles, such as hidden underground basements from homes that no longer exist.

There was contaminated soil to mitigate, 11 underground storage tanks, old railroad track, and a maze of underground tunnels to fill in.

“Not only was it an extensive amount of effort to determine what conditions existed, then to manage through it and things that were unforeseen,” Kiriluk said. “Your digging through it, digging out — and there’s another basement.”

Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting said the nearby distribution center and combined purchasing power of two major health systems will result efficiencies that will hold down health care costs.

The project also aligns with the system’s decade-long commitment to revitalizing the neighborhood surrounding Henry Ford Hospital, Schlichting added. In 2012, Henry Ford announced plans for a $500 million expansion of the Henry Ford Hospital campus.

Henry Ford’s 10 to 15-year plan calls for construction of new homes, commercial properties and parks. The summer’s end, the system will have demolished about 100 homes in the vicinity. The distribution center is located on 18 acres previously owned by Henry Ford Health System.

“Henry Ford has been working to develop for several years to improve our neighborhood, to improve the economic vitality of Detroit.” Schlichting said. “It has turned out to be a fabulous facility.”

KBouffard@detroitnews.com