All Under One (Big) Roof

Cowell1Less than two years after the ceremonial shovels hit the ground, the state-of-the-art Cowell Family Cancer Center is readying to welcome its first patients in Traverse City by mid-winter.

A cancer center – with all diagnostic and treatment services in one location – had long been identified a top priority for the region by health care professionals. While Munson has been recognized for top-notch care for cancer, the scattered services were much less than ideal. The need for better coordination of care and improved patient convenience was real.

The project’s original timeline had patient treatment beginning in June 2016, said Jim Fegan, director of facilities construction at Munson Medical Center. That date has since been bumped up to the first week of February. Fegan expected construction to wrap up by late December – marking some 80 weeks of construction activity. The plan is then to get setup for business by mid-January and to welcome the first patients shortly thereafter, he said.

Fegan has been in construction for 42 years, the last 35 in health care construction. He said the cancer center isn’t the most challenging project he’s ever worked on, but all projects come with unique circumstances and this one was no different. Munson functioned as the general contractor on the project with up to 135 skilled tradesmen on the project at any one time. Eighty percent of the contracts were with local companies.

The cancer center will bring all treatment options, providers and support staff to one location. It will shorten the time between cancer diagnosis and implementing treatment. Specialty and multidisciplinary clinics for breast, prostate, and lung cancers will occur in the cancer center, as well as expanded research and clinical trials, and cancer genetics clinics.

It replaces the nearby Biederman Cancer Treatment Center and the Infusion Clinic across the street. The lobby of the new center will be named the Biederman Center in recognition of the Biederman family’s donation that created the facility in 1986.
An underground tunnel will eventually link the new building with the hospital to allow for delivery of food, laundry and other services.

Floor By Floor

There is no inpatient care in the new facility – patients who require that will still be located at the main hospital.

All patient/doctor contact happens on the third floor of the facility, which includes all the exam rooms and doctors’ offices.

The second floor features 42 individual infusion units for chemotherapy treatments. A community group of past patients encouraged the hospital to create an open design, as many expressed a desire to have treatments in a group setting, but private areas are also available. The floor is split into two wings, one for adults and one for pediatric patients.

At one end there is “The Gallery,” which will include sculptures and a simulated creek done with lighting and stones – an idea from philanthropist Casey Cowell himself. Patients can even receive treatment outside, if they choose, enjoying the roof top garden and view of Kids Creek across the street.

The ground floor is dedicated to radiation treatments and includes three “vaults.” The doors to these rooms weigh 20,000 pounds and walls are five feet thick with thousands of “shielding blocks” to seal in the radiation.

The building has been designed to “visually connect” it to the creek running across the street, a connection that was very purposeful in design. When Munson representatives visited cancer centers around the country during the pre-planning stages, the one thing everyone agreed on was the incorporation of the outside, natural world into whatever was built to create a healing environment.

The cancer center is also an integral part of a regional plan for cancer services. Patients who do not live in Traverse City, or close to it, will leave the cancer center with a coordinated treatment plan and may receive some of their services as close to home as possible at infusion clinics in communities throughout northern Michigan.

Who Is Casey Cowell?

Cowell5Casey Cowell and family provided a $5 million dollar leadership gift to the cancer center in early 2012. Cowell, a Detroit native, co-founded data communications giant U.S. Robotics in 1976 and served as CEO before the company merged with 3Com in 1997. He and family have been located in Traverse City since 1991. Cowell, himself a cancer survivor, had all his treatments at Munson.

To date, $18.5 million has been donated to the project. In addition to Cowell, other major gifts for the cancer center include: $1.5 million from The Carls Foundation; a $1 million gift from Bob and Pauline Young of Traverse City; a $500,000 challenge grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City; a $500,000 grant from the Frey Foundation; a $300,000 gift from the Donald Hayden Family; a $250,000 grant from the Herbert and Grace Dow Foundation; The Bill Marsh Auto Group; Edward and Karen Walker; the Oleson Foundation; Grand Traverse Radiologists; Biederman Foundation; Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation; Fifth Third Bank; and also from the Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation.


Local Contractors On The Project

Lautner Irrigation

A.F.P., Inc

Chess Construction

Spence Brothers

Molon Excavating

National Coatings

Comstock Construction

Bay Masonry

Berg Electric

Windemuller Electric

Floor Covering Brokers

Grand Traverse Nursery Sales

Cooke Sheet Metal

Bloxsom Roofing

DW Mechanical

Integrity Test and Balance

Gourdie Fraser and Associates

Strand Constructors

Inhabitect and Hydrotech

Alpers Insulation

Story Insulation


Cancer Center: By The Numbers

Groundbreaking: May 1, 2014

Size: 85,000 square feet

Cost: $45 million

Demolition: Nine buildings were demolished to make room for the new structure and allow for the re-routing of Kids Creek.