NSU makes headway in plan to become major medical hub

The $220 million new hospital, which will be about 7 miles away from its current location, will have five stories with an attached $21 million parking garage.

Nova Southeastern University’s long-anticipated Academical Village is starting to come to life.

The village, inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” at the University of Virginia, will include a 200-bed teaching hospital, high-tech research park, medical office building, 350-room hotel and conference center, retail shops, restaurants and 800 urban-style apartments.

The ambitious project, a joint venture between NSU and private developers, has been 17 years in the making. Construction is about to begin on the new hospital, which will be run by HCA East Florida on the university’s campus in Davie.

“The goal is bench-to-bedside research, clinical trials and treatment,” said Brandon Hensler a spokesman for the university.

Town officials say they’re glad to see progress on the 30-acre project, slated for the southwest corner of campus near Interstate 595 and University Drive.

“It’s going to bring in medical conferences and technology conferences or even legal conferences,” Davie Councilman Bryan Caletka said. “And then after the conference, they’re going to say, ‘Let’s see what else is around here.’ And they’re going to go to downtown Davie.”

The project, which includes 4 million square feet of residential, retail, hotel, office and medical space, was stalled by the Great Recession a decade ago.

State officials also played a role in stalling the project when they rejected requests for a teaching hospital on campus. They finally granted approval two years ago.

HCA East Florida is expected to break ground on the hospital later this month or next, NSU President Dr. George Hanbury said. The company already runs a freestanding emergency room center on campus.

“We’re building a 21st Century Academical Village,” Hanbury said. “And the hospital really is what we’ve been waiting on for all of these 17 years. We had to know where the hospital was going to be [before breaking ground on anything else].”

Initial plans called for building the hospital on the north end of the property, Hanbury said. But plans now call for a bigger hospital that fits better on the southern end, he said.

Hanbury said he expects the other projects within the village to begin construction within the next five years, including work on a four-star hotel and conference center.

“We would like to have a conference center for medical education, lawyers, parents, patients and their loved ones going through clinical trials,” Hanbury said.

Caletka said the conference center would be more of a mini-convention center, and could lure clientele from Broward County’s larger convention center south of downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“The convention center in Fort Lauderdale is away from downtown,” he said. “This one would be right near downtown Davie right in the center of the county, so you’re 20 minutes away from wherever else you want to go in the county.”

The entire Academic Village will serve the local community along with visitors from all over Florida, the Caribbean and Central and South America, Hensler said.

Residents will also have access to NSU facilities, including the largest library in the state.

sbryan@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4554

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