RALEIGH — 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 office buildings. That spot became vacant last fall when the 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, a nonprofit organization hired by the city to manage and promote downtown. "We obviously hope that it succeeds."
The doctors' practice will be the first in downtown's core "in recent memory," Diaz said.
With more people moving into downtown condos and apartments 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.
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 it will work with human-resource managers at RBC Bank, Progress Energy, law firms and other big employers to get the word out.
WakeMed considered other spots, but liked the highly visible, first-floor location on East Davie Street, spokeswoman Heather Monackey said. Since the 3,600 square feet of space previously was a spa with a waiting room and private rooms, it required only minor modifications.
The hospital did not disclose financial terms of its lease.
Others sought spots
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 a downtown site a couple of years ago but decided to stick with its Rex Senior Health Center at 512 E. Davie St. in Southeast Raleigh. That center already provides primary care and Medicare services, Rex spokeswoman Lisa Schiller said.
Duke Raleigh Hospital also considered a downtown facility but is focused for now on expanding some of its existing primary care practices, spokeswoman Carla Parker Hollis said.
The City Center group will be part of Wake Specialty Physicians, a network of practices owned by WakeMed.
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.
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