As reported by The Hartford Courant, June 9, 2008.

Medical Office Complex in Farmington Boosts Tax Base

By Regine Labossiere

Farmington is becoming sexy.

The town is attracting what most officials would salivate over — an industry that provides significant tax revenue without overusing municipal services.

For Farmington, that means a medical corridor. Next to the UConn Health Center on Route 4 is the beginning of what will be a five-building medical complex called the Farmington Medical Arts Center. So far, two large buildings are full of doctors' offices from regional medical groups and Hartford hospitals. Next door, two more buildings are under construction and the developer is planning a fifth.

Most Farmington Valley towns are debating how best to grow their commercial tax base to lessen the burden on residential property owners. Farmington has figured it out. According to members of the Connecticut chapter of the American Planning Association, the sexiest kind of development is a large office operation that has a lot of equipment that will provide plenty of real and personal property tax revenue.

In other words, a 70,000-square-foot building, X-ray machines, surgical equipment, needles, computers and desks are objects of desire.

"Office space is definitely chief among the things we are trying to encourage in town," said Town Planner Jeffrey Ollendorf.

"It'll bring more revenue to the town, more than retail and more than warehousing. Depending upon the type of business, it might even bring in manufacturing," he said. "In general, it's better than retail."

Farmington's new medical corridor is more than a benefit to the town's tax base; it's a reflection of what's happening in health care. In suburbs across the United States, including South Windsor and Glastonbury, doctors are being pressured to leave independent practices to join larger physicians' groups, which require larger office facilities. The move of doctors from city offices and hospitals also reflects a need for doctors to follow their well-heeled and well-insured patients into their more affluent hometowns. Overhead costs are less for the doctors, who share equipment costs and staff salaries. For patients, the benefits are having multiple doctors in a variety of specialties in one place, not having to travel far and having an easier time parking.

The Metro Realty Group, a Farmington-based real estate company, broke ground on its medical office project in 2004 and has constructed two buildings along Route 4 — also known as Farmington Avenue — between 50,000 square feet and 80,000 square feet. A building of 43,000 square feet is under construction next door on South Road, and the foundation has been laid on a fourth nearby. A fifth building of an estimated 35,000-50,000 square feet is planned for 505 Farmington Ave.

Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Jefferson Radiology, and several groups of surgery, dermatology, women's health and other medical practices occupy the two finished buildings. The UConn Medical Center has leased 60 percent of a building that is under construction.

The project represents a collaboration among Hartford, St. Francis and UConn hospitals, which all have offices in the medical complex, said Victoria McCormick, Metro Realty's medical office specialist.

"I think a lot of people thought it might be competition with UConn, but we're enhancing it," she said.

Mary Grace Reed, a member of the Farmington school board and a consultant for physicians' groups, has been praising the development since it first opened and hopes to move one of her clients into a building.

Reed explained her enthusiasm for the complex with a story that she says sounds too unbelievable to be true, but it is: "The day it opened up, we got a call from the high school that my son had severed his eyelid." She said her son needed a special eye surgeon whom the family located in the new building.

"That level of service was available to us right here in Farmington," Reed said. "It's, in my opinion, one of the premiere medical developments in this part of the state."

McCormick said that Metro Realty's development of five medical office buildings, as well as a condominium development and a child care center that already have been built on the property, will pay real and personal property taxes to the town of more than $1 million a year. Ollendorf said he expects the new complex to help the town and its residents for years.

"Having that kind of a use there as a complement to the health center is going to help the town in making sure that that area remains viable," he said.