Univ. of Kansas Hospital announces construction that could benefit area stores

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. –The development cat is finally out of the bag at the University of Kansas Hospital. The hospital announced big plans for an empty lot near its campus at 39th and Rainbow.

The hospital announced it will soon build a new 92-bed facility called Cambridge North. Medical staff members plan to primarily use the new space for neuroscience and surgical oncology patients.

Engineering firm Burns & McDonnell kicked off the fundraising with two donations totaling $3.5 million.

“They’re doing great things at KU hospital,” Greg Graves with Burns & McDonnell said. “That’s something that the whole city needs to be recognized of and something the whole city should be proud of.”

A release from the hospital says there are no timetables for construction on the new building to begin or end.

Hospital administrators have watched their business boom in recent years.

As the hospital grows — so do the fortunes of local merchants whose businesses surround the KU medical campus. When patients and medical workers come to 39th street, they often bring their billfolds with them.

As many as 60 locally owned and operated businesses sit within a few blocks of the University of Kansas Hospital property, so news that the hospital is growing sounds profitable to business owners.

Shopkeepers in this neighborhood know it as “the wave.”

That’s when foot traffic picks up around noontime, and businesses on 39th Street reap the benefits. Many of those customers who come to the Volker neighborhood have a tie to the University of Kansas Hospital, as either a patient, employee or someone akin to one of them.

Cafe operator Andrew Folger is no stranger to seeing doctors and nurses come through his door. At Room 39, people associated to the KU Hospital often come in seeking coffee and meals.

“It is an escape for a lot of people,” Folger said. “KU is on our side with that. They tell their patients and friends — I’d like to think that.”

And just across the street, the excitement is just as high at Prospero’s Bookstore.

Store owner Will Leathem thinks of his eclectic store as being on ‘Restaurant Row.’ The news of KU’s new development isn’t lost on him, since he’s watched the hospital grow his neighborhood for 16 years.

“I’ve read different numbers,” Leathem said. “Over 3,500 people daily visit that campus. It’s a block away from us. They have to eat. They have their lunch break. They’re walking around.”

The medical center’s latest project promises to employ as many as 100 new doctors. Hospital president Bob Page enjoys seeing the surrounding community benefit from his hospital’s success.

“People tell me they want to be part of a winner,” Page said. “We have been doing great things here. We’re not done yet.”

When the Cambridge North building opens, the hospital expects to have 600 new patient care jobs, many of whom will support these local businesses.

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