Methodist holds ‘topping out’ ceremony for tower, names it after prominent Memphian

By Elle Perry

From Memphis Business Journal

Construction on Methodist University Hospital’s $275 million tower is officially halfway done, and the tower now has a new name.

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, hospital leaders, employees, and members of the project team gathered for a “beam signing.”

“This is not just a building; this is an economic impact in this community,” said Michael Ugwueke, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare president and CEO. “We’ve put our stake down, basically saying to this community, ‘We are here to stay in Downtown Memphis and the Medical District. And, we challenge everyone within the city to follow suit and make similar commitments to being in a Downtown location and supporting this community from an economic standpoint.’ The point really is, regardless of where you are in Memphis, we want to make sure that you have access to top quality health care, regardless of your ability to pay, whether you live out East or Downtown.”

At the event, Methodist Healthcare Foundation president Paula Jacobson also announced the tower would be named in honor of former longtime Methodist CEO Gary Shorb.

“For 26 years, Gary led the transform of what was a sleepy, 100-year-old system to national prominence, recognized across the country in a number of key services,” Ugwueke said.

Shorb was present at the event.

“Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare was my life for 26 years, and I loved this organization. Still do,” Shorb said. “I loved working here; I loved the people. It really was something I would have almost done for nothing, but didn’t. … University Hospital has a special place for me, in that 26 years ago, I started my work at Methodist on the first floor of what was then Methodist Central Hospital. And, this hospital really does represent the core or DNA of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in that it shows a commitment to the Medical Center. It shows a commitment to education and research and the strong partnership with the University of Tennessee.”

The construction project includes a 450,000-square-foot tower, which will consolidate departments from across six blocks. The project will consolidate the system’s transplant services into a two-floor inpatient/outpatient comprehensive Transplant Institute and will include the West Cancer Center’s Union Avenue location and a newly constructed parking plaza with 700 spaces. Demolition of the Crews Wing will allow space for two gardens.

“In our new expansion, we have a 30 percent increase in ICU capacity and a 30 percent increase in our operating room capacity, and a new tower designed to provide significant improvement in the patient care experience by enhancing flow and efficiency,” said Jimmie Mancell, interim president of Methodist University Hospital.

According to Richard Kelley, vice president of corporate facilities management for the hospital system, the project is on-time and on-budget. And, according to Turner Construction project executive Kyle Reaves, 1,000 construction jobs have been part of the project to date, representing 400,000 man-hours.

The new tower will be open in spring 2019.

Dallas-based HKS is the lead design architect; Self-Tucker Architects and Archimania also are project architects. Allen & Hoshall are doing structural and civil engineering. Turner Construction is the general contractor for the project.

Methodist University Hospital Tower, By the Numbers:

  • 16,000 cubic yards of concrete, which could fill up 75,000 bathtubs
  • 1,100 tons of Rebar, which is as heavy as 14 space shuttles
  • 13,100 cubic yards of excavation foundation systems, equal to the size of about 500 million marshmallows
  • 3,798,583 linear feet of electrical wire, which would stretch from Memphis to Cleveland


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