Building projects can help transform an entire county
Most commercial real estate redevelopment projects are profit driven. But once in a while, I work on a project that goes way beyond that; the project becomes transformational. For several years, I had the good fortune to work on such a project for Dallas Metrocare Services. The story of how this project will transform the land, customers, staff and an entire community is worth telling.
Imagine an 11-acre parcel of land at one of the highest points in Dallas County. There are dilapidated buildings on the property, some dating from the late 1940s. These buildings served Metrocare customers. For years, Metrocare debated whether to sell or redevelop the property – also known as Hillside Campus – but the bid amounts were insufficient to allow Metrocare to find a new location and rebuild in such a setting. special than the Hillside Campus.
Eventually, as I worked closely with the Metrocare leadership team, we began to look again at the site with a fresh perspective and the potential it presented for Metrocare to build a state-of-the-art campus called Behavioral. Health Innovation Center. The location is perfectly situated to become the epicenter of all Metrocare operations, dramatically enhancing clinical care, training, education and research efforts to benefit Dallas County and serving as a state and national model for the provision of behavioral health care.
The location is in a prime spot on Westmoreland, just south of I-30 at Oak Cliff. The views are spectacular; from the highest point you can see downtown Dallas AND downtown Fort Worth. The natural setting is a key element for the recovery of patients; the setting will be integrated with the architecture and the building so that nature can nurture the mind, body and soul of the guests.
When completed, Metrocare’s Hillside Innovation Center will house two buildings to serve Dallas County. But it’s more than buildings; it’s about what Metrocare will do once they occupy these buildings.
Metrocare is the largest provider of high-quality mental health, addictions, and developmental disability services to our most vulnerable neighbors in Dallas County, regardless of their ability to pay. It is also one of the largest housing service providers in the county. Through Metrocare’s 11 mental health clinics in various locations across Dallas County, the organization provides a wide range of community services, including primary and preventative care, mental health and developmental disability services, accessible pharmacies, housing, veterans services, reintegration support, crisis intervention, early childhood intervention (ECI), autism services, adaptive day programs and more. In 2021, Metrocare served over 55,000 children and adults. Its services are available to everyone in Dallas County.
21st century clinical care, education and research practices demand that Metrocare transition to more modern, efficient and effective facilities, especially as mental health needs have increased in recent years. The centerpiece of Metrocare’s vision is to create this hub of behavioral health innovation to keep pace with Metrocare’s best service delivery model,
The Innovation Center will house the Altshuler Center for Metrocare Education and Research, where researchers and educators are partnering with UT Southwestern and the University of Texas at Dallas to train the next generation of healthcare professionals behaviour, clinicians, researchers and leaders. As you can imagine, their training is top notch and in high demand here and across the country.
According to Todd Howard, Executive Vice President and North Texas Office Manager for Kirksey | th+a, the project architect, “We designed the Guest Services Building, the larger of the two buildings, to sit atop one of the highest points in Dallas, enjoying the view. The entire campus is designed to be a sanctuary for Metrocare customers and staff. With sustainability at the forefront of all the company’s work, the buildings are designed with the environment in mind and are on track to achieve LEED Gold ratings.”
The Guest Services Building will be located along the northern edge of the property, with the north facade facing Interstate 30. This building consists of three parking levels with approximately 90,000 square feet of service space at the clientele.
Closer to Westmoreland, with approximately 48,000 square feet, will be a clinic dedicated to providing clinical services to patients of all ages. Several programs will be offered in the clinic space. Separate entrances for adults and children will provide a safe environment focused on counseling and healing environments for specific age groups. The design of the building is functionally guided by best practices in clinic design. The treatment rooms will be located around a central core which will serve as a workspace for the doctor and staff, allowing easy access to all patient rooms. From a physical perspective, the design of the clinic follows the topography of the site, allowing views of the wooded basin on the south side of the property.
Commenting on the outdoor setting, Howard added, “The location of both buildings provides a beautiful outdoor space that serves as a healing environment for patients with walkways, water features and areas for nature interaction. . The Healing Garden is visible across campus and provides solace to the patient experience. The design team engaged MAP (Make Art with Purpose), which in turn engaged CityLab students to work with the design team on the art of the exterior skin of the building.
Whenever a company or organization develops more than 11 acres, the commercial real estate industry and the community around it sit up and take notice. This project is a great example of redevelopment of a site with dilapidated and outdated buildings into something new. The Hillside Innovation Center is a transformational development that will provide better access to high quality care to more people who may not have been served before.
According to Tate Ringer, Chief Strategy Officer of Metrocare, “Mental health care is Health care. The two are nested and cannot be separated. If we want to have a healthy Dallas, we must have state-of-the-art mental health services. And that’s what we’re building.
I wholeheartedly agree and am honored to have helped build a healthier Dallas County through a real estate redevelopment project that will transform property but, more importantly, transform lives.
Eliza Solender is President of Solender/Hall, Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors of Origin Bancorp and as Senior Advisory Director of Lost Oak Winery.