Highmark surgery center approved in Monroeville

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Monroeville Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to approve Highmark's site plan for an ambulatory surgery center along Monroeville Boulevard.

Highmark officials plan to renovate the old Syms clothing store at 4121 Monroeville Blvd.

The 40,800-square-foot building — which is behind the Miracle Mile Shopping Center — will house a surgical center and medical offices less than a half-mile from the new UPMC East hospital and West Penn Allegheny‘s Forbes Regional Hospital.

Ambulatory surgery centers offer elective surgeries, such as joint replacements or plastic surgery, not emergency services.

The new outpatient center on Monroeville Boulevard will be one of several Highmark facilities planned to open in the region, including a medical mall in Wexford that will feature an outpatient surgery center and mix of medical offices and retail outlets.

“Highmark is developing an integrated delivery network,” Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said. “The focus of that is both being a healthcare insurer and healthcare provider.”

Highmark is trying to acquire West Penn Allegheny to create a health system to compete against UPMC — the largest health system in Western Pennsylvania.

Next door to the planned medical facility in Monroeville is the Corporate One Office Park, where UPMC operates a Children‘s Express Care practice, a UPMC Behavioral Health office and a Magee Womancare Associates imaging center.

When asked if the location for Highmark's medical center was chosen to compete financially with UPMC, Billger said the decision was based on the number of Highmark members in the area.

“It's important for us to have a presence in Monroeville because we have a large membership base there,” Billger said.

A Highmark Direct store is located in the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, and a road connects the shopping center with the Corporate One Office Park.

“We have a very strong presence in Monroeville,” Billger said.

Monroeville Councilman Bernhard Erb was pleased to hear the new ambulatory and surgery center will — unlike the tax-exempt UPMC East hospital — generate real estate tax dollars for Monroeville.

In explaining the site plan at a Jan. 3 council meeting, zoning and code officer Mark Ciufo said,“this is a for-profit, ambulatory service,” which was music to Erb's ears.

“That's all I needed to know” Erb replied.

The Monroeville planning commission recommended council's approval of the project with an attached condition that a new sidewalk is built from Monroeville Boulevard to the front entrance of the building.

Monroeville officials also are requesting that a cross street connect the parking lots of Corporate One Office buildings and the ambulatory service, though it is not required, Ciufo said. The project is scheduled for two phases. The first phase is scheduled for completion by mid-to-late 2013, Billger said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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