The Rowan University Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to authorize the university to sell 100 acres of land to Inspira Health Network. Inspira plans to build a new, $350-million medical center on the property.
Before any construction or work on the project can begin, the proposed facility still requires approval from the state. If approved, the site is expected to take two years to complete, according to a statement emailed to students from university President Dr. Ali Houshmand.
“We are excited about the construction of a major medical center on, what is for all intents and purposes, our West Campus,” Houshmand said in a release issued by the university. “It provides us with a wide range of educational opportunities, and it also acts as an anchor that will attract health care providers and businesses. We also expect it will spur research in biomedical sciences and other related fields at our South Jersey Technology Park.”
The university paid $10.1 million for the proposed site approximately a decade ago. Rowan will retain approximately 200 acres of property on the south side of the West Campus and nearly 300 acres on the north side. The roughly 500 acres of remaining land is reserved for future development or sale.
The new medical center is expected to house 175-200 beds according to the release, and the university says it could offer hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs for medical professionals in the community. The facility will also offer a place for Rowan medical undergraduates to do rotations in their third and fourth years, and for graduate students to study within their specialty and start their residencies, says Rowan Vice President for University Relations Joe Cardona.
In the future, the president’s statement said “the relationship will expand to include partnerships in such areas as clinical trials, biomedical research, undergraduate internships, and educational opportunities in business, health care management, information systems, biomedical engineering, nursing and allied health.”
The site could also provide opportunities to non-medical students, Cardona said. Students interested in business, accounting and engineering may be able to find internships in different departments within the medical center or at other businesses that are attracted by the Inspira facility.
“It’s a nice use of the land on the West Campus that’s been sitting there for the last ten years,” Cardona said. “This hospital being there is a really nice anchor that helps attract more people to be interested in being nearby.”
When the sale was first discussed at a board meeting in January, officials from Kennedy Health, who operate a hospital less than 10 miles from the proposed site, argued that the new facility would force too much competition. After the sale was announced on Tuesday, Kennedy issued a statement thanking the board for hearing their case.
“We appreciate that the Rowan University Board of Trustees considered our concerns regarding this matter over the past month,” the statement said. “We respect their decision and understand these types of issues are complex. More importantly, we have been the partner of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, as their primary teaching partner, for nearly 40 years, and this will continue for many more years.”
Despite reports that Kennedy officials had mentioned a possible re-evaluation of the company’s relationship with the university, a statement from officials on Wednesday clarified that there was never an intention to change the partnership.
“Kennedy Health never expressed any intention to re-evaluate its longstanding and positive relationship with Rowan,” the statement said. “We will continue to do what we do best together: train physicians to serve the people of our communities.”
A final sale price and specifics of a partnership agreement are still to be negotiated, according to the university’s release. Inspira will need to apply to the state for a certificate of need — which determines whether or not the community would benefit from another medical center — which can take up to a year to complete.