WakeMed is preparing to open a primary care physicians' practice in downtown Raleigh, betting that it can attract workers and the swelling population of residents.
Wake County's largest hospital system expects to open its City Center Medical Group next month at 150 E. Davie St. The practice will occupy street-level space in 2 Progress Plaza, one of Raleigh's newest developments, that became vacant last fall when Iatria Day Spa closed.
"We've heard from residents that this was a void that needed to be filled, so they don't have to drive everywhere to get basic services," said David Diaz, CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. "We obviously hope that it succeeds."
With more people moving into downtown condos and other homes in recent years, it's clear that there is demand from residents for medical care, Diaz added. What's harder to measure is whether there will be demand from employees who work downtown but live elsewhere, and already have medical providers.
"We're going to help WakeMed get in front of our employers," Diaz said.
WakeMed considered other spots, but liked the highly visible, first-floor location, said spokeswoman Heather Monackey. Since the 3,600 square feet of space used to be a spa with waiting and private rooms, it required only minor modifications.
The hospital did not disclose financial terms of its lease.
WakeMed's practice will start with two full-time doctors and one part-time, and might expand if demand is strong. WakeMed plans to do some direct mail and other advertising, and will work with human-resource managers at RBC Bank, Progress Energy, law firms and other big employers to get the word out.
Other hospitals have approached Diaz's group in the past two years about opening urgent care or primary care facilities downtown. "WakeMed is the first to make the commitment to see whether this will work," he said.
Rex Healthcare evaluated that possibility a couple of years ago, but decided to stick with its Rex Senior Health Center at 512 E. Davie Street in southeast Raleigh. That center already provides primary care and Medicare services, said Rex spokeswoman Lisa Schiller.
Meanwhile, Diaz is interested in attracting other anchor tenants that would draw visitors and other retailers to downtown. At the top of his wish list: a movie theater and a grocery store.