Prairie Commons

Traffic along U.S. Highway 281 passes by the east side of the Grand Island Regional Hospital on Tuesday. The hospital, which is hoped to be finished by the end of 2019, will be part of an overall development called Prairie Commons.

GRAND ISLAND — In addition to a new hospital, the new development at Highways 281 and 34 will include retail space, a hotel, two medical office buildings, multi-family housing, 11 acres of senior living, restaurants, community space and an extension of the city’s hike and bike trail.

The entire 108-acre area will be known as Prairie Commons. Twenty-three of those acres will be occupied by the anchor tenant, Grand Island Regional Hospital.

Two speakers detailed plans for the development Tuesday at the Grand Island Rotary meeting at Riverside Golf Club. Most of the speaking was done by Beth Frerichs, director of marketing and communication for Chief Industries. The other speaker was Dr. Tom Werner, one of the physicians involved in the project.

A body of water will present a scenic welcome to the facility at the corner of 281 and 34. Behind the small lake will be a wall identifying the development as Prairie Commons.

Chief sold the 23 acres to the hospital group, Frerichs said. More than 80 doctors have invested in the real estate.

So it is “definitely a project that the community supports and is community-led,” she said.

Real estate partners are Bryan Health and Mary Lanning. Chief and additional corporations are also investors in the real estate.

The hospital, which is the first phase of the Prairie Commons development, will total 174,000 square feet, encompassing four stories. The top two will house 64 beds when the project is complete.

The exterior will feature red paneling. The hospital’s front entrance will face the west.

It will be a full-service hospital, with an emergency department and maternity/delivery, Frerichs said.

Construction is on schedule. The hospital may open on a limited basis in December or January. More patients will be welcome, as the hospital receives Medicare and insurance certifications. Officials plan to open on a full-scale basis in May or June of next year.

“The hospital itself will be controlled by a community board,” Werner said in an interview. “Bryan and Mary Lanning will have a say in that. We’ll have local physicians and local representatives on that board, but there’s no physician investment on that board.”

“Doctors can’t actually own a hospital, but they can invest in the real estate portion,” Frerichs said in an interview.

In July, work will begin on a three-story medical office building, which will total 64,000 square feet. It will be connected to the hospital.

Officials have found there’s a lot of interest in the medical office building — so much so that there’ll probably be a second such structure.

Prairie Commons will be the first large development in Grand Island with a unified theme, Frerichs said. It will be a wellness-centered development.

Planners expect the development to be “vibrant, thriving and definitely pedestrian-friendly,” she said.

The community space might feature playground equipment and splash pads. Planners want it to be a place where people interact. The development will include two miles of hike and bike trail, which will go under Highway 281 to connect with the city’s existing trails.

Prairie Commons might possibly be home to a movie theater and a bar with outdoor seating as well.

Organizers want the hotel to be one that is not currently in Grand Island. The multi-family housing will probably include upscale apartments.

A roundabout will connect the hospital to Husker Highway, Frerichs said. A traffic light on Ponderosa isn’t possible until the Nebraska Department of Transportation determines there’s a need. But Frerichs is confident that light will be built eventually.

At the beginning of her talk, she said the development “started probably 10 years ago. Chief purchased the land after a few items fell through, one of those being Target that was going to locate in Grand Island. They backed out, and so Chief purchased that land because they knew it’d be great potential use in the future.”

Interestingly, executives have reapproached Target about coming to Prairie Commons, Frerichs said.

Unfortunately, “they are not looking to come here,” she said. Target looks at the Tri-Cities as one entity, and the Kearney store takes care of that.

Right now, Target is focusing on cities that house Big 10 schools and other college campuses, Frerichs said. Prairie Commons is trying to emphasize the presence of Hastings College in this area. So far, Target isn’t buying.

“But we’re still working on it,” she said.