When executives at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital (HGB) in Charlotte were taking a hard look at their mission and vision a few years ago, they realized that future growth of the hospital and the community had to be considered together.
“We knew we had to look at the health and vitality of the community beyond our walls,” said HGB CEO Matt Rush.
The concept that emerged from the HGB visioning process became known as AL!VE, an experiencebased, destination health park designed to enhance the overall health and well-being of the community. AL!VE would offer integrated health services, fitness programs, nutrition and cooking classes, community gathering spaces, indoor and outdoor walking paths, youth enrichment and more.
Hayes Green Beach purchased an 18-acre site on the west end of Charlotte to construct AL!VE. The former Felpausch Grocery location was perfect in that HGB could use nine acres for the physical AL!VE facility, and reserve another nine acres for community development, including parkland and wellness activities. HGB collaborated with several organizations around the country with experience in building similar projects. The project team was meticulous in developing a plan that integrated programs and services in a way that would encourage total community involvement.
“It was a very intentional process,” said Barbara Fulton, HGB”s community and organizational development director. “We spent a year-and-a-half working on the experience design.”
The collaborative approach to AL!VE has also been evident in the fundraising needed to make the ambitious project a reality. The HGB Board of Directors agreed to invest $10 million of the needed $15.5 million needed for the first of two phases. A community capital campaign has already raised $3.0 million of the balance.
AL!VE celebrated the grand opening of the initial 45,000-square feet in November 2011. A first time visitor is immediately struck not only by the physical impressiveness of the facility but the energy one feels throughout AL!VE. That energy is enhanced by action-oriented branding developed by six employee teams that named each one of the program areas, which include; women’s health (Journey), physical, occupation and speech therapy (Empower), a transition workout area for rehabilitation (Bridge), a multi-purpose gym (Soar), an indoor walking path (Explore), a demonstration kitchen (Relish), a healthy café (Nourish) and an outdoor courtyard (Ponder).
HGB has agreed to consider upfront funding for phase two of AL!VE commensurate with the community capital campaign’s success. Phase two will allow HGB to relocate its wellness center from the main hospital, provide child care and children’s programming, offer a conference center complete with dedicated conference rooms and a staging area, as well as an expansion of walking trails. Phase two of AL!VE could be completed by the end of 2012.
AL!VE’s strategy of providing integrated services that touch all members of the community is already evident. People using the facility for one service are gaining awareness and access to life-saving health care services in another area. For example, mammograms at HGB are up 20 percent since AL!VE opened.
“A significant number of women are getting a mammogram for the first time as a result of being here and using another part of the facility,” said Patrick Sustrich, AL!VE’s executive director.
“It’s a collaborative space,” said Fulton. “Ultimately, this should be a place where a cross section of the community comes together in a way that improves community health.”
A casual observer might be tempted to think of AL!VE as a wellness center. However, it is much more than that. AL!VE is truly being viewed as a community asset that will help make other institutions better. Several organizations in Charlotte have already begun or expanded internal wellness programs as a result of experiencing AL!VE.
In a broader sense, AL!VE should be viewed as a vital component of a regional economic development strategy, which stretches beyond Charlotte to the entire mid-Michigan region. AL!VE is a unique community asset that will help draw people to the area to live, work and visit.
“Regionalism is more than connecting infrastructure, consolidating resources and collaborating on economic development,” said Rush. “It’s more about a change in mindset, from that of individual perspective to one of a broader vision of responsibility beyond your own walls. Only then will you reach your own full potential – we believe AL!VE is an ambitious example of this approach."