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This Health System’s Nontraditional Investment Strategy Targets Population Health

By Philip Betbeze  
   June 08, 2017

An Ohio health system bought 70 acres of blighted downtown real estate near its safety net hospital and has a deal with a developer to build housing and retail space in addition to expanding to local parks system.

As a health system CEO, Randy Oostra knows that "job one," as he calls it, is clinical excellence.

But as the leadership and board at Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica have educated themselves in on the impact of the social determinants of health, the health system's focus has evolved to be more deeply involved in areas some would consider far afield of the mission of treating and preventing illness.

These include affordable housing, inner-city groceries, community outreach, and increasingly, real estate investment.

The most recent evidence of that strategic priority is embodied in a deal between ProMedica and Columbus, Ohio's Continental Real Estate Companies, that aims to redevelop approximately part of a 70-acre plot  of downtown property in the city's Marina District into housing and retail space. The rest of the property will serve as an addition to the city's park system.

ProMedica purchased the 70-acre property in 2016 with the city's cooperation in a bid to redevelop a portion of the property and sell approximately 50 acres of it under favorable terms to Metroparks, Oostra says.

The deal is ambitious and unusual, but it's grown out of previous projects that have proved the concept, he says. "The idea is to use our resources to drive economic development and attack tenacious community problems."

Originally from Iowa, Oostra has led ProMedica for 20 years. It is the area's largest employer with 15,000 employees.

Over time, he's convinced the board of the viability of using the capital resources of the health system to "drive economic development and attack tenacious community problems."

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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