Medical Office Sector Stays Active with Investments, Developments

While the credit crunch and economic downturn have significantly hampered real estate investment activity across all sectors, the medical office niche is one area that many in the industry expect to remain relatively active in the uncertain months ahead. Chicago-based Lillibridge’s recent closing on the purchase of a $31 million medical office portfolio is the latest in a spate of acquisition and development activity in the sector in the past few months. The Lillibridge deal entails a portfolio of 13 medical office buildings totaling 255,000 square feet, which the company acquired from Decatur Memorial Hospital. Ten of the properties are located on the campus of the hospital in Decatur, Ill., while the remaining three are off-site in the city of Decatur. Overall occupancy of the portfolio is 95 percent, including five facilities fully occupied by the hospital. The hospital was seeking to sell the real estate in order to raise funds to re-invest in its healthcare business, and Lillibridge jumped at the opportunity to buy. “When Decatur Memorial Hospital wanted to free up some capital to invest in their core healthcare business we were glad for the opportunity to acquire this portfolio,” said Todd Lillibridge, chairman & CEO of the firm. And Lillibridge is not alone in its optimism about medical office properties despite the tumultuous economy. In mid-January, Grubb & Ellis Healthcare REIT shelled out $43 million for a pair of medical offices in Texas, one in San Antonio, and one in the Houston suburb of Webster. Meanhile, the development front has also been active, with recent projects including the Mount Zion Medical Office Building, a 48,000-square-foot facility being developed in San Francisco by KMD Architects, as well as a new 166,000-square-foot, $40 million pair of medical offices being built by Seavest Inc. in Waco, Texas. Speaking with CPN back in November, Grubb & Ellis Co.’s Danny Prosky, who serves as the firm’s executive vice president of healthcare real estate, predicted that sales would pick up for the sector in 2009. One factor driving sales, he said, would be the desire of health care providers and hospitals to sell properties to gain access to capital, which was a major factor in Decatur Hospital’s decision to sell to Lillibridge.