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Grocery store transforms into therapy site

A former east Medford grocery starts a new life today as a medical building.

Rogue Valley Medical Center has moved its rehabilitation therapy department to the former Cantwell's Market at 781 Black Oak Drive. The building also will house the Work Health programs managed by Asante Health System, RVMC's parent company.

Columns of shelves and cash registers have been replaced by treatment rooms, offices, exercise equipment and a therapy pool. Construction crews were putting the finishing touches on the building Tuesday as staff arranged furniture and settled into their new digs.

— If you hadn't been here when Cantwell's was here, you wouldn't know it was ever a supermarket, said Bob Perlson, RVMC's director of rehabilitation.

The building will provide more space for RVMC's physical and occupational therapy programs and allow Asante to consolidate three work-health programs at one location. Asante managers chose the 28,000-square-foot building for its proximity to the hospital and its ample open space, Perlson said.

We could design it for our needs, he said. For rehabilitation you need big open spaces and private spaces.

Perlson said the therapy department needed to move because the demand for rehabilitation therapy outstripped the available space at RVMC. His staff handles about 1,700 patient visits per month, providing physical therapy for people who need to relearn gross muscle movements; occupational therapy for those who need to relearn fine muscle control; and speech pathology services for stroke victims and others who need to relearn to speak.

Perlson noted that 15 handicapped-parking spaces have been laid out directly in front of the building to provide easier access for people who may have limited physical mobility.

The building's ample parking area also will please people who use Asante's three work-health services, said Rick Rankin, program director. Truck drivers, for example, will find reserved parking spaces for tractor-trailer trucks when they report for random drug testing.

The truck parking will be a biggie for our customers, Rankin said.

He noted that Asante Work Health provides a range of services for 1,200 local employers, including pre-employment physical examinations, drug testing, employee counseling and treatment for on-the-job injuries.

Rankin said the work-health programs will begin operating in the new building on Monday.

Asante signed a 15-year lease on the building and invested &

36;700,000 in improvements such as fiber optics and telecommunications equipment, said Scott Kelly, Asante's vice president for planning, marketing and business development.

Eric Bunn, who owns the building, supplied the balance of the remodeling funds. Bunn, a Medford resident and real estate developer, said remodeling an existing building for medical uses typically costs around &

36;100-per-square-foot. He said leases for similar buildings typically range around &

36;12- to &

36;15-per-square-foot.

Bunn said hospitals often influence the evolution of nearby commercial space. When they're close to a hospital, the buildings often change to medical uses. Hospitals just get bigger and bigger.

Bob Perlson, RVMC?s director of rehabilitation, checks out the new therapy pool. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell