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Beacon Health unveils plans for new 10-story patient tower at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital

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Beacon Health System
The 10-story tower will be built on a small empty parcel of land in the middle of Memorial Hospital's existing campus.

Beacon Health is planning to build a new 10-story patient tower at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital.

According to a new dashboard on Beacon Health’s website, the $232 million project will add 53 new patient beds to Memorial Hospital and create 500 new jobs.

“I don’t think it’s an understatement when I say it’s a big deal,” Memorial Hospital president Larry Tracy said. “It’s the largest single investment in the history of Beacon Health System, as well as Memorial Hospital South Bend.”

Tracy said the hospital’s current patient beds are in buildings from 1958 and 1973. And so, while the new tower adds capacity — the hospital will have 302 beds once it opens — he said it will also be a better and more modern facility for patient care.

“We’re literally doubling our ability to take care of critical care patients through this project,” Tracy said.

To that end, the L-shaped tower will contain seven new patient floors and a renovated and expanded Intensive Care Unit. It will be built right in the middle of Memorial’s campus on some empty land between the hospital’s current two towers in the south and the Bartlett Parking garage in the north.

The shorter end of the L will be built on top of the existing three-story Leighton Heart and Vascular Center building, which faces Michigan Street.

Because of its location, Tracy said the tower will also serve as a sort of campus hub, with connections to various other existing Memorial Hospital buildings.

“Today when you come into Memorial Hospital, you’ve got to navigate on the ground — am I going to elevator A, B, C, D, H for heart?” Tracy said. “With this new design, the way we’re going to connect it to existing buildings, you’ll be able to get to all those different areas that those elevators service — except for the children’s hospital — by going to one central elevator bank that sits right behind the main entrance.”

Beacon began plans for the tower in 2019, but Tracy said it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction is expected to start this September and be completed by March 2026.

But the announcement did not contain any updates on another proposed Memorial Hospital project, the $60 million Beacon Integrative Health and Lifestyle District.

According to a fall 2021 plan submitted as part of the South Bend Elkhart-Regional Partnership’s application for state Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grants, the project would contain 145 “workforce” apartments, a 50,000 square foot health and wellness facility, 35,000 square feet of office and retail space and several parking garages.

It would be built on land currently occupied by parking lots between Marion Street and LaSalle Avenue and would connect Memorial to downtown South Bend.

Tracy said that proposal is still just a concept.

“Lots of conversations are happening with different interested parties, whether it be the retail space, the residential development space, the parking space,” Tracy said. “We’re hoping to continue developing those ideas and bring that project to fruition.”

He said Beacon is currently waiting to hear back on how much, if anything, it will be awarded in state READI grant funding by the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership.

Beacon’s proposal requests just under $12 million in state funds for the project. In January 2022, the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership was one of only five regions to receive $50 million — the maximum amount of funding available through the READI grant process — but Tracy said the organization is still determining how to divide up those funds.

“The group that’s going to make the decision on how to distribute our region’s $50 million allocation is going to have a really tough job ahead of them,” Tracy said. “There are a lot of worthy projects that are seeking those dollars.”

If Beacon Health is “fortunate enough” to be awarded a portion of those READI grant dollars, Tracy said the plan could move forward.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.