News Article Details

U eyes Shriners site in Minneapolis for child brain health research center

Star Tribune - 9/9/2019

The University of Minnesota wants to spend about $55 million to turn the Shriners hospital in Minneapolis into an interdisciplinary research institute for kids' brain health.

The U has struck a purchase agreement to acquire the Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities property on East River Parkway just south of Franklin Avenue for $22.5 million, including the 103,000-square-foot hospital on the site, plus a small hotel and conference space, and a 172-space parking ramp on the 10-acre property. Shriners' medical services are moving to Woodbury.

The U's Board of Regents, which has until Dec. 9 for due diligence, is slated to consider the purchase agreement at its meeting Thursday. The property is about a mile from the U's East Bank campus.

If approved, the proposal calls for the U to spend an additional $25 million to $33 million to renovate the building into the Institute of Child and Adolescent Brain Health, according to paperwork filed for the Regents' Finance & Operations Committee. The U intends to fund both the purchase and renovation through philanthropic donations.

The proposed deal would give Shriner's lease-back rights to the property through December 2020, as the Shriners organization moves its children's medical services to the Woodbury building that is under construction.

"The property is uniquely suited to serve this proposed Institute," says the purchase proposal submitted jointly by the Medical School and the College of Education and Human Development. "Its quiet setting, with easy of access, was designed and constructed to serve the needs of children with disabilities and their families."

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a national charity that provides neuromusculoskeletal care and other special health care and related research for kids, without regard to patients' ability to pay. The Twin Cities location has been based at 2025 East River Parkway for nearly 100 years, according to an announcement from the Colliers International brokerage.

"This agreement will allow us to strengthen our position and commitment to the children and families of this region, as we prepare for our second hundred years of caring for kids," said a statement from Charles Lobeck, hospital administrator for Shriner Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities.

The Twin Cities Shriners held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new location in Woodbury last July, as the organization shifts from providing inpatient care on its Minneapolis campus to outpatient services on the first floor of a building on Interstate 94 east of Radio Drive.

The sale is contingent on the U granting the Shriners the right to lease back part of the building while their new facility is under construction through July 31, 2020, with an option to extend the lease-back period for an additional five months if needed, the proposal submitted to the regents says.

The U's College of Education and Medical School plan to jointly fund the $3 million annual operating costs of the Child and Adolescent Brain Health Institute, which they envision as "a world-leading epicenter of early brain development."

The colleges' joint proposal says the institute is intended to address a misalignment in early pediatric development: Although 80% of brain development happens before a child turns 3, the average age that children are diagnosed with cognitive and social issues is between 5 and 7.

The institute would aim to begin childhood interventions within the "optimal window" of the first 1,000 days of life for autism, learning disabilities, depression, schizophrenia, sleep disorders and many more conditions. The center will also treat adolescents whose brains are rapidly changing, the proposal says.

Joe Carlson • 612-673-4779

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