Adventist Health Bakersfield disclosed plans Friday for a roughly $10 million ambulatory care and medical office building at its new property along Coffee Road as part of a regional investment strategy that would also include a new, five-story tower at its existing hospital campus downtown as well as a new health clinic in Tehachapi and substantial improvements to its Delano medical center.
The announcement by Adventist President Daniel Wolcott was particularly significant in that his predecessor had called for building a whole new hospital at the Roseville-based health system's new property next to the Bakersfield Commons multi-use project developer World Oil Corp. has proposed in the city's southwest.
A hospital may yet rise at the approximately 40-acre location north of Brimhall Road but Wolcott said that won't happen for at least five to seven years. In the meantime, Adventist's strategy will be to concentrate investment in high-acuity medical care downtown and make the Coffee Road location — which he said will include urgent and primary care as well as physical therapy — more of a centerpiece for its long-term focus on improving the longevity and well-being of Kern County residents.
"That property is going to be a place where we illustrate our commitment to the health and well-being of our community," he said in interview Friday morning at the company's downtown campus.
By far the larger investment will take place downtown: a roughly $300 million tower offering expanded emergency-room services and more operating rooms, with a focus on cardiac care. Built just north of the hospital's existing tower at the site of what is now a physician parking lot, the facility would also double Adventist's local capacity for maternal and child care, including a new neonatal intensive care unit.
Wolcott said it was unclear when the hospital expansion would be approved by the state but that its construction would precede development of the complex along Coffee, which he estimated would begin within three years.
The Tehachapi clinic would measure about 10,000 square feet, Wolcott said, and begin construction next year at Adventist's existing hospital campus in the city. Its offerings will range from primary and dental care to medical specialties such as orthopedics, gastrointestinal care and cardiology.
The plan in Delano is to expand Adventist's existing, 156-bed hospital with a complete rebuild of the center's emergency room and mother-baby unit.
Wolcott explained the regional investment strategy was based partly on Adventist's mission to shepherd local residents' well-being and extend their longevity, and partly on the government's focus on reining in health-care spending.
But he said the development plans disclosed Friday were also informed by lessons the company learned during the pandemic: that health care is increasingly moving to virtual and ambulatory settings except in cases where higher acuity needs call for the kind of quality health care and sub-specialization that is best delivered in a hospital.
"Our community's expectations of us have risen because of the pandemic," he said.
Adventist bought the Coffee Road property in December for $11 million, following through on a pledge the company's former local president, Sharlet Briggs, made in 2018. In April Adventist announced the development will be named the Roth Family Campus because the former owner, World Oil, owned by Steve and Robert "Bob" Roth, had given Adventist a price discount of $16 million, which became a donation to the nonprofit health system.
The Roths' adjacent Bakersfield Commons project has encountered delays for more than a decade. But on Friday, a developer representative with Trammell Crow Co., Brad Cox, by email shared a construction schedule he said would put more than 300 units of multifamily rental housing on the property by the end of next year.
Designs for off-site infrastructure work approved by the city, such as enhanced traffic signalization and widening of Brimhall and Coffee, are moving "full speed ahead," he wrote, adding that construction of the apartments is expected to begin by the second quarter of next year and move-ins should begin by the end of 2022.
Other components of the project are scheduled to begin soon thereafter.
"We will be moving forward with the first phase of an office building for sale program in 2023 with a local developer/partner and intend to have building available in the market in early 2023," Cox wrote.
"We are in negotiation with two anchor tenants for the retail development of the project, 150,000 square feet, to include hard and soft goods retail shops, theatre, fitness, grocery and food/beverage offerings," he continued. "We are scheduled to deliver the retail development in early 2024."
Editor's note: This story has been amended to clarify the Coffee Road property's development timetable.