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New cancer center taking shape in Traverse City

Dan Nielsen
Traverse City Record-Eagle

Traverse City — Patients will begin receiving treatment in Munson Medical Center’s new Cowell Family Cancer Center in February.

The $44 million, three-story, 100,000-square-foot facility has been under construction for a year and a half. The structure now is about three-quarters complete, said Jim Fegan, Munson director of facilities construction.

Crews are installing doors, trim and cabinetry on the third floor. They’re completing drywall on the second floor and installing radiation-blocking materials in the ground floor radiation treatment rooms.

The brick exterior is nearly done. Workers planted flowers around the parking area last week.

The Cowell Family Cancer Center will replace the Biederman Cancer Treatment Center. That structure, along with the adjacent MRI building, will be demolished in 2016 after the adjacent Cowell facility is up and running. The two cancer centers will run in tandem for a time, Fegan said. Nine other buildings already were demolished to clear room for the new structure. Kid’s Creek was rerouted around the site.

The new building is many times larger than the Biederman building, which has done duty as a cancer treatment facility since 1986.

Doctor’s offices and exam rooms occupy much of the Cowell Center’s third floor. A bank of elevators front the three-story-tall wall of glass that encloses the main lobby.

The second floor is devoted to chemotherapy. Input from cancer patients convinced Munson to build many of the 41 individual infusion units in a shared area. Private units also will be available. Patients will have a view overlooking green roof elements on the second-floor patio, Kid’s Creek and nearby neighborhoods. A separate pediatric chemotherapy unit will feature a sealed bubble wall, something akin to a giant fish tank but without the fish.

Three radiation treatment vaults occupy much of the ground floor. High-density blocks that weigh 70 pounds each — 100,000 of them — have been stacked up in the walls and ceilings around the vaults that will enclose radiation machines. Some of the walls are five feet thick. Massive doors are filled with the same blocks to seal in radiation during treatments.

Munson said about 1,500 people in the area are newly diagnosed with cancer each year. It aims to centralize treatment for all its cancer patients in the new facility.