Children’s Hospital Boston: Charles Weinstein, Esq., VP for Real Estate, Planning & Development

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Land in Boston is at a premium and construction in the city’s Longwood Medical Area, among the densest healthcare centers in the world, comes with a price tag that computes to $150,000 an FAR foot (based on the floor area ration that can ultimately be constructed on a particular site). Children’s Hospital Boston sits alongside healthcare giants such as Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The 392-bed hospital is the premier pediatric medical center in the nation.

Charles Weinstein, Esq., Vice President for Real Estate, Planning & Development, is responsible for coordinating the Institutional Master Plan for the hospital with the city of Boston. It is a plan that gets updated every two years and it tells the city of Boston’s redevelopment agency what Children’s is then planning, in terms of its strategic needs, what buildings it is planning on constructing, and the nature, size, and description of those buildings.

“We go through a building by building review process before anything is constructed in Boston,” says Weinstein. His department is also charged with buying or leasing property to facilitate expansion of the hospital’s footprint. They create satellite locations which allow them to bring outpatient care, and sometimes inpatient care, closer to the patients, so that family life, when possible, is not so disrupted by an illness.

The organization also acts as a landlord, in some cases, to both healthcare businesses and other types of services or industry.

Building Up for a Better Tomorrow

One of Weinstein’s current projects, slated to be completed in 2013, is the lateral expansion of the 10-story main hospital. They are building up, floor by floor, because there simply isn’t enough physical space in Boston to build any other way. Because they can tie into the existing building there will be fewer space redundancies. Existing lobbies, elevators, and storage spaces will be used. The 120,000 square foot addition will add space to the emergency department, the radiology department, and add recovery beds to the operating suites. Then, they are creating additional floors of inpatient beds and a new neuroscience floor for advanced radiology. The entire project is expected to be complete in the summer of 2013 at a total cost of $168 million.

Weinstein is also working on a number of small renovation projects or upgrades. Three different research buildings, totaling more than a million and a half square feet of laboratory facilities are undergoing $50 million in renovations. Additional outpatient clinics are under construction as well , each located in suburban ‘satellite’ locations.

“Everything is derived from our institutional master plan,” says Weinstein. “We spend a lot of time trying to figure out strategically what it is we need to provide to the hospital over a period of years…. whether it’s more inpatient beds, more outpatient space or more research space. We then implement that agreed upon strategy in a variety of locations, by creating individual capital projects that are designed to further the goal of that plan.”

Architects are selected through a kind of jury selection process. Contracts are all competitively bid, but everyone is carefully screened before they are allowed to work at Children’s Hospital Boston. “We’re too big and the kids are too sick to allow anybody to go to school on us. We want very seasoned, experienced, skilled contractors and workers, whether it’s within the direct construction trades, or by providing the hospital with professional services in the engineering and architectural fields,” says Weinstein.

The Key is in the Planning

“The success of any project comes in the planning effort,” says Weinstein. “If you plan it well, test all your assumptions, and have a good architect, the implementation gets to be pretty easy because it’s just construction. If you rush into construction without thoroughly analyzing all of the implications for shut downs and how it affects adjacent properties or adjacent programs, that’s what causes problems. I’m all about the planning.”

Real estate projects of magnitude general take up about two years in planning and approval with an additional three years in construction.

The Evolution of Healthcare Real Estate and Development

“Years ago, what I am doing now was done by a facilities director who grew up as an electrician or mechanic or plumber and worked himself into a supervisory role. He was basically doing renovation jobs,” says Weinstein. “I’m an attorney with a Master’s degree in arts and architecture. I think it’s all become much more professional in the administration of capital projects.   The stakes are too high for both the patients and the Hospital.”

“All of my colleagues come from different disciplines. Some were architects; some were in a construction background and got into hospital construction. I’m not sure there is a best path, but there has to be an understanding of how hospitals operate. Getting a masters degree in healthcare administration is useful, but it’s not a silver bullet to getting into this role.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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