El Rio TMC

El Rio Health, in partnership with Tucson Medical Center, is opening a new campus just off Fourth Avenue. 

The nonprofit healthcare provider will occupy the 7,000 square-foot ground floor space of the office complex to be located East of Trinity Presbyterian Church on East University Boulevard. The site will include a dozen exam rooms, a lab and x-ray room. El Rio and developers hope to open next fall.

According to El Rio Health Chief Operating Officer Lisa Cummings, there is great need for affordable health care in the Fourth Avenue area. She said that while El Rio Health is for everyone, they focus on serving people living under the federal poverty level. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 25 percent of Tucsonans are living under the poverty line. 

El Rio has 1,300 employees, and has served more than 100,000 unique patients. Currently, they operate 11 campuses throughout the Greater Tucson Metro Area, providing a variety of services including dental, pediatric, maternity and primary medical care. The organization’s most recent addition, HealthOn Broadway, will serve as a model for the University location.

HealthOn University is a joint venture between El Rio health and Tucson Medical Center. The campus will provide primary medical care, as well as lab work and radiology. The center will also provide health and wellness education for the community.

“The more we embed those services, that’s a win for everyone,” Cummings said.

Both a fiscal decision and a move to better reflect its congregation’s size, Trinity Church sold a portion of their land to R+R Develop in partnership with Bourn Companies in 2011.

“Our goal is to create a beautiful and modern building to complement and contrast the historic buildings on Fourth Ave.,” said Randi Dorman, owner of R+R Develop.

Other buildings in the R+R Develop portfolio include Ice House Lofts and Barrio Metalico.

Dorman said the development of the site has gone through seven years of configuration changes due to issues that came with rezoning a church site into a residential, retail and office space. 

The site will ultimately be comprised of two buildings, a four-story apartment and retail development south of the church on Fourth Avenue, and a three-story office building on University.

Dorman said she wants the development to be something people could walk through and even sit down and hang out. They plan to incorporate trees and pathways through the development to encourage public interaction. 

The developers worked with the West University Neighborhood Association to find businesses to fill unmet needs for the community. Currently, the closest health care facility to the West University Neighborhood is El Rio’s Downtown location. After seeing the success of HealthOn Broadway, El Rio seemed like the perfect fit, Dorman said.

While the decisions behind El Rio’s proposal fell on the developers, Trinity Church is in support of the new neighbors.

“The church is extremely excited about this,” said Buck Lovejoy, chairman of the long-range development team at Trinity Church.

Lovejoy said the church hosts Tucson Homeless Connect, an event connecting local agencies, businesses, and medical providers with homeless people to help provide them with basic needs, referrals and advocacy.

“El Rio will be a great addition to the amenities that we can offer at that event,” Lovejoy said. 

Chandler Donald is a University of Arizona journalism student and Inside Tucson Business intern.