Henry Ford Health plans 'transformational' $2.5B hospital, developments with Pistons, MSU

Sarah Rahal Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

Detroit — Henry Ford Health said Wednesday it's pursuing a $2.5 billion development plan over the next decade with the Detroit Pistons and Michigan State University that would create a new hospital, a medical research facility as well as residential and recreational developments.

The Detroit-based health system plans to tear down the Health Alliance Plan headquarters and construct a $1.8 billion hospital in Detroit's New Center area across the street from the existing Henry Ford Hospital, officials announced at the Pistons Performance Facility. The hospitals and facilities would be connected through a series of bridges, underground tunnels and walkway green space. The new hospital would have 877 beds, the same number as the existing hospital, but a new patient tower would house 350 of those, officials said.

All the beds at the new hospital would be private rooms, as Henry Ford Health builds on the model of its West Bloomfield hospital that it opened in 2009 with 200 private rooms. Some units of the existing Henry Ford Hospital would be converted into larger private rooms that could accommodate families, officials said.

"This reimagined hospital will feature all private patient rooms, something that all Detroiters deserve, just as well as all Michiganders with dedicated spaces for care teams, family members and visitors," Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Robert Riney said.

Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Bob Riney announces a plan to build a new hospital in Detroit along with residential and other developments in the New Center area on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.

The joint medical research center with Michigan State University would bring clinic trials, precision medicine, artificial intelligence, machine learning and population health research to change "how health care is delivered not just here, but everywhere," Riney said. The health system expects the research center to "attract worldwide attention to the work we'll be doing," added Dr. Steven Kalkanis, the health system's chief academic health officer.

The new hospital alone will represent the largest single health care investment in Detroit in the health system’s history, Riney said, and would be financed through philanthropic money without seeking economic incentives. He wouldn't be more specific.

“Detroit deserves a premier academic medical center and destination for the most advanced care, research and education," Riney said. "The future of health is here, and we are proud beyond words."

More:Henry Ford's new hospital responds to competition, fulfills 'a regional need'

The proposed plan has prompted questions about how a new hospital will affect Detroit's health equity, how the surrounding neighborhoods may benefit from the developments and whether MSU's footprint will extend through its Cass Corridor Satellite Campus to the New Center. It also highlighted how the hospital system may be seeking to become more competitive with rivals and how the medical higher education talent pipeline might change.

The hospital is one part of what Henry Ford Health officials called a "transformational vision" to improve health care" and "create unique opportunities to live, work and play," potentially including hotel space.

The developments would turn the New Center, where Henry Ford's main hospital has called home for more than a century, into a walkable community with the latest residential, commercial, retail, recreational and health care developments for the neighborhood south of West Grand Boulevard on both sides of the John C. Lodge Freeway.

The redeveloped area will be anchored by a reimagined Henry Ford Health academic health care campus, a new 1 million-square-foot facility and patient tower. Differences include an expanded emergency department with space for trauma and behavioral health, intensive care units and technologically advanced operating suites. Modernized spaces include procedural, cardiac catheterization, physiology labs, interventional radiology, as well as robotic platforms to focus on neuroscience and cancer transplant.

In June 2017, Henry Ford Health began its $155 million Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion expansion. A year later, in May 2018, the hospital received a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor that was used to create the Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center, with plans at the time for a national and international hub. Now, the new hospital will focus on using advanced technology for surgical treatments specifically for pancreatic cancer, officials said.

The small number of Henry Ford and HAP employees who still work in the HAP building will be relocated to other locations, Henry Ford officials said, noting many HAP team members work out of Troy. 

The plan includes a new medical research facility for Henry Ford Health and MSU Health Sciences, part of the hospital's 30-year partnership with MSU. The research facility will be located at what is now a surface lot for One Ford Place, along Third Street, across from the Pistons Performance Center and Henry Ford's administration building. The health system's board of directors still needs to approve the project and if so, construction will begin in 2024 and open for patients in 2029.

Henry Ford Health System announced a $2.5 billion development plan over the next decade on Feb. 8, 2023, that will include a new $1.8 billion hospital in Detroit's New Center area near the existing Henry Ford Hospital. The development will take place on both sides of the Lodge Freeway near West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

The multi-year commercial development led by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores is expected to create 550 or more residential units, and more than 85,000 square feet dedicated to green space, recreation and outdoor basketball courts, Pistons spokesman Kevin Grigg said. The pro basketball team moved its headquarters to New Center from Auburn Hills in 2019 with the opening of the new practice facility.

"We couldn't be more excited to transform our neighborhood into a vibrant community," Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem said. "It was a critical part of moving the business franchise back to Detroit, where we belong, and we are not just to play games here, but to build a home here and embed ourselves in the community."

'Worldwide attention on research'

The research building will bring together basic translational, clinical research, clinical trials, precision medicine, artificial intelligence and machine learning and population health research “to change how health care is delivered not just here, but everywhere,” Kalkanis said.

“The building will house multiple shared research efforts like cancer and health disparities research, and it will fuel discovery through an integrated partnership of buyers, academics, scientists and public health practitioners,” Kalkanis said.

Michigan State University interim President Teresa Woodruff called the latest development in the Henry Ford Health partnership "an important upward inflection point" since they are in the second year of a 30-year partnership.

"This includes the integration of Henry Ford Health physicians as MSU faculty, and so far we have 109 research, 85 clinical and 10 new educational faculty appointments at Michigan State University," Woodruff said. "This includes the development of a therapy for cancer, treatments for patient management, particularly in surgical treatments for prostate cancer."

More:Henry Ford Health project raises hopes in New Center for 'yet more development'

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former president of the Detroit Medical Center, said one of the first buildings built in 1915 on Grand Boulevard was Henry Ford Hospital. Since then and during the years of Detroit's decline, he said "Detroiters watched dozens of hospitals bail on our city, close their doors. ... And Henry Ford never wavered."

"This is the building of a world-class medical institution in an academic setting tied into the community. I mean, this is truly visionary what we're seeing," Duggan said.

'Buildings are kind of tired'

Henry Ford Health made the move not only to remain competitive with hospital rivals, said Allan Baumgarten, a health market expert at the University of Minnesota who studies the Michigan hospital market, but because it "reflects a fundamental need."

"The original Henry Ford buildings are kind of tired," Baumgarten said. "... I think they saw this as both a necessity but also an opportunity." 

The new Detroit hospital would still have the most rooms in the health system. The next biggest Henry Ford hospital is the Jackson facility with 420 beds followed by Henry Ford Macomb Hospital at 361 beds and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital at 360 beds.

The impact of billionaire investors in Detroit is important, Baumgarten said, noting that Gores joins Rocket Mortgage founder Dan Gilbert as a player in reshaping Michigan's largest city. Such a project can't be accomplished alone without the commitment of billionaires, he added. "It's sort of interesting that you've got in Detroit these sort of larger-than-life individuals like Gilbert and Gores for the Pistons," said Baumgarten, adding that they "are looking to essentially remake the city or remake large portions of the city. So it's, I guess, a tribute to Detroit, but it's also, I think, a commentary on people who maybe have large egos about the kind of mark they want to leave on a major city." 

The announcement came almost one month after Detroit's Downtown Development Authority approved the first round of funding for a $1.5 billion District Detroit project, a joint mixed-income and mixed-use development venture by the Ilitch and Ross family organizations.

The Pistons already worked with Henry Ford Health to develop the Pistons Performance Center in the New Center area. The National Basketball Association team holds its practices at the facility, which includes a Plum Market and Planet Fitness.

The Detroit-based health system plans to tear down the Health Alliance Plan headquarters and construct a $1.8 billion hospital in Detroit's New Center area across the street from the existing Henry Ford Hospital.

The $90 million Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center, located near Amsterdam and Second, houses the team headquarters, putting the basketball operations and training areas under one roof.

At the opening of the center in October 2019, Gores indicated he envisioned doing more development in the city.

“This is an important milestone, but our work in Detroit is only getting started. Our ambitions have always been bigger than just basketball,” Gores said at the time. “This is an investment in the future of our city.”