North Manatee County is primed to get its second major medical facility.
The latest one comes from HCA Florida Healthcare, which plans to build a medical center that will anchor a health-oriented complex in North River Ranch, a master-planned community in Parrish. Dubbed the North River Ranch Village Center, it will be home to mixed-use spaces like an organic grocer, restaurants, fitness center and a brewery, according to a statement. The center is on the northeast corner of Moccasin Wallow Road and Fort Hamer Road.
HCA Florida Healthcare purchased nearly 22 acres for the roughly 200-bed hospital that will include an emergency room and acute care services. The price paid for the land wasn't updated in Manatee County property records as of Oct. 27.
HCA's announcement comes two months after BayCare Health System announced plans of its own to open a new medical facility north of the Manatee River, by the end of 2025. John Neal, president of Neal Land and Neighborhoods, the developer of North River Ranch, says the HCA center fills a need.
“The north (Manatee) County area has lacked a focus from other developers and the county in general,” he says in an interview. By introducing a new hospital, Neal is hopeful it will attract other businesses and residents to the area. Additionally, the developer says North River Ranch residents often have to drive upwards of 40 minutes to the nearest health care center.
Now, residents will have options. While BayCare, one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in Florida, announced its plans first, HCA's hospital may actually open first. Its facility, according to the statement, has a current timeline of beginning to offer medical services by 2024. Neal adds the services will be released in a phased approach.
The news of the hospital was welcome for the upcoming State College of Florida (SCF) Parrish campus, which is still in its funding phase and not yet under construction.
The campus is situated on a little more than 74 acres just south of North River Ranch. The campus will be built in three phases, but the construction timeline depends on funding and community needs. The land for the campus was purchased in 2017, but just received the Manatee County Commission approval of the site plan Sept. 1.
HCA Florida Healthcare and SCF are beginning discussions regarding the development of a nursing program. With the nursing program, students would be able to attend classes at the college and then receive hands-on experience through the hospital.
There are likely two core reasons for the dueling hospital expansions. North Manatee County is one of the fastest-growing parts of the west coast of Florida is one. The other? After a large part of the certificate of need (CON) program — which capped hospital growth on a bed-per-population basis — was repealed in 2019, the application process for building a new hospital has been shortened. Health care providers no longer need permission from the state to move forward on a project.
Prior to the repeal, hospital systems would submit a lengthy application to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration to discuss the possibility of a new hospital. The length of time it took to get through that process depended on how quickly a hospital made it into the queue, how complex a project was and how many staff members were sifting through applications. At the very least, it would take several months.
The new HCA hospital and its other buildings in North River Ranch will occupy 125,000 square feet of preventive care medical offices, the release states. In addition to being situated next to health-focused restaurants and entertainment options in the mixed-use village, there will also be residential options. The design will also feature outdoor and sidewalk spaces to encourage residents to walk or bike there.
“I like to think on a beautiful October blue-sky day, that I’d bike over to have a hamburger,” Neal says. “That’s the experience. It’s an adventure getting there.”
“The access,” Neal says of the health-focused village and new hospital, “has been lacking in Parrish for so long.”
The developer had sought out other health care providers before selecting HCA. “They had the best ideas,” Neal says, pointing at their other locations as having the visual appeal and size Neal Land and Neighborhoods was looking for in a provider. “Size isn’t everything, but I think it means more robust medical services.”
HCA Healthcare is headquartered in Nashville with locations across the country. HCA Florida Healthcare, under the HCA Healthcare umbrella, has more than 570 affiliated sites of care with roughly 11,000 experienced doctors and 77,000 team members. The calculations for how many jobs the new project will add for the area have not been made yet.
This article was updated to reflect that the new State College of Florida (SCF) Parrish campus is south of North River Ranch.