Jefferson visionary thinks geography, technology

Rodin Square, at 22d and Spring Garden Streets, will include Jefferson medical offices as well as apartments.
Rodin Square, at 22d and Spring Garden Streets, will include Jefferson medical offices as well as apartments.
Posted: August 11, 2014

Stephen Klasko is the new president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and the Jefferson Health System. A fan of Star Trek, he wants to push Jefferson forward into the next century - steering away from health care's traditional model of big-edifice hospitals and real estate and instead toward localized medical offices.

Jefferson's new offices in Fairmount will aim to do just that. The health-care giant will lease 12,000 square feet at developer Neal Rodin's new project, Rodin Square, putting Jefferson doctors in the same building as apartment dwellers. Ideally, those residents will avail themselves of Jefferson's services.

"Jefferson is leasing all the space on the northwest corner, at 22d and Spring Garden," said Rodin, head of International Finance Corp.

Said Klasko: "We want people to think of Jefferson at home or watching television, not just when they're sick. We bring Jefferson to you, rather than you coming to one place."

Rodin Square is a mixed-use development bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue, Spring Garden and Hamilton Streets, and 21st and 22d Streets. The building will feature a 55,000-square-foot Whole Foods store with a facade facing the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The 293 apartment units will have access to a roof terrace and an infinity pool.

MV&A is the architect; Intech is the general contractor. Residential space will price out at $3 per square foot, and apartments will average 1,000 square feet.

Typically, the building's first-floor space would have been leased to a retail store, a restaurant, or a bank. But the $160 million Rodin Square project will be one of the largest new rental buildings in the city, and as such ripe with new customers for Jefferson.

"All the medical entities are realizing that everyone can't come to the main office. They have to get out into the community," Rodin said. "This is the model now for health care, to have a practice where people live, and Steve [Klasko] is changing the face of Jefferson. They've been the sleeping giant in this city. He's got energy, a medical degree, and an MBA," from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

As did the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, whom he counts among his heroes, Klasko is exploring new technology initiatives, with an eye to cutting down on real estate deals as well as advancing health care.

For instance, Klasko introduced a "telehealth" initiative, so doctors and hospital patients can communicate with their families.

"Docs will make their rounds or discharges at home with an iPad," or treat Jefferson patients who happen to be spending the winter in Florida, via video link, he said.

"Kids at home with a rash? Parents should be able to call in virtually, have the doctor take a look. Then they can decide whether or not to come in to the office," said Klasko, adding that virtual rounds will start in the fall.

He is working to replicate the Rodin Square/Jefferson concept, potentially leasing space at assisted-living complexes and in residential and commercial buildings with existing medical offices willing to send referrals to Jefferson.

Recently, Jefferson opened a retail clinic with physician offices in Washington Square and entered into a new lease arrangement at the Smylie Times Building in Northeast Philadelphia, which houses medical offices for MRIs and counseling.

In the fall, it will renovate a townhouse on 10th Street that will serve as incubator offices for Jefferson's in-house start-up companies.

"Stanford and other universities have incubators, and so do we," Klasko said.

Alumni Hall on Locust Street between 10th and 11th Streets is being renovated, with P. Agnes as the contractor. Jefferson also has a master plan for its library; a contractor has not yet been named.

"These projects will transform the campus into more of an open arcade, more student-centric," Klasko said.

"The trend in health care is broader ambulatory care, making sure physician offices, primary or urgent, or specialists, are more accessible to the community," he said.

"We have to take the Jefferson brand out into the world," Klasko said. Also borrowing from Apple's Jobs, he believes that "we can't just compete, we have to reimagine."


earvedlund@phillynews.com

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund

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