MedQuarter primed for more growth in Cedar Rapids
Over the last decade, the NewBo District and downtown Cedar Rapids have experienced a boom in popularity and growth.
Now some people believe the next area to grow like that will be the MedQuarter Regional Medical District, also known as the MedQ, which is the area northeast of downtown, anchored by St. Luke's Hospital, Mercy Medical Center and Physicians Clinic of Iowa (PCI).
The district covers 55 square blocks, and it's been an official district within Cedar Rapids since 2011.
Sitting in the MedQuarter, near St. Luke's, is Grey's Pub. The bar and restaurant make the most of its proximity to the hospitals and clinics, as shown in its name.
"Kind of a play off Grey's Anatomy," Terra Heaton, manager and partner at Grey's Pub, said.
A big part of its clientele comes from the 6,000-plus employees who work in the district, many of them from St. Luke's, Mercy and PCI.
"A lot of them come here for lunch," Heaton said. "We do offer takeout, so when they have a short lunch hour, they'll call in their orders and bring it over there."
The restaurant had a front-row seat to the MedQuarter's growth over the last eight years, propelled by tens of millions of dollars in investment.
Phil Wasta, executive director of the MedQuarter, said its hospitals and clinics total more than 350,000 patient visits annually. He added that having so many options so close together is unique in eastern Iowa.
"Within this area, you've got a super high concentration of medical assets--not just two hospitals, but PCI and a lot of private clinics," Wasta said.
As the MedQuarter continues to grow, Wasta said adding more housing could be on the horizon.
"We have talked to several developers, and we have some ideas that we would like to see happen from a housing standpoint, and a couple of which I really think have legs," Wasta said.
Housing tastes have been changing, and an appetite for more dwellings toward the city's center could benefit the district.
“With kind of a shift in the market, we’re seeing more interest in urban housing, and the MedQuarter’s certainly a district where we could have more urban housing," Caleb Mason, an economic development analyst for the City of Cedar Rapids, said.
Opening more restaurants and retail could also be in the district's future, along with a childcare center, but Wasta said the main focus is on developing what the MedQuarter does best.
"What we're best equipped to attract is more healthcare," he said.
Work that is going on right now could be key to making that happen, according to Mason, who pointed to the construction of a second pavilion at PCI, along with road reconstruction and beautification along 10th Street, as examples of that.
"When developers are coming and looking at areas that they want to redevelop, typically, they're attracted to areas where they see investment already happening," Mason said.
That's something Grey's Pub is happy to see happen in its neighborhood.
“I just hope that people realize how lucky really we are here in Cedar Rapids to have two amazing hospitals. We have PCI," Heaton said. "So many things here locally to help the people in our community.”