University of Iowa Hospitals seeks approval for North Liberty facility

Suresh Gunasekaran, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO, speaks during a press conference providing an update on COVID-19, Friday, March 13, 2020, at the Johnson County Emergency Operations Center in Iowa City, Iowa.

For more than a decade, a large sign declaring “University of Iowa Health Care Coming Soon” has sat in an open field on the corner of Highway 965 and Forevergreen Road near the border of North Liberty and Coralville.

Almost every surrounding field along the highway just off of Interstate 380 added new developments in the decade since UIHC acquired the land and planted the sign. A new Hy-Vee across the street to the east debuted in 2018 and 965 Flats apartments to the south recently welcomed its first tenants

But the hospital sign remains in a vacant field.

In an interview with the Press-Citizen, UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said the sign has become somewhat of “a local joke” because of how long it has stayed up without a finalized plan gaining approval.

On Tuesday, Gunasekaran hopes the laughter will stop. That is when he will once again pitch a new hospital to replace that forlorn sign, featuring 48 beds at a cost of $230 million. His plan was rejected by the State Health Facilities Council six months ago over concerns about its price tag and after other local hospitals questioned the need for it.

A sign for a University of Iowa Health Care building "coming soon" is pictured, Thursday, Nov., 7, 2019, at the intersection of Forevergreen Road and Coral Ridge Avenue in Johnson County, Iowa.

Gunasekaran believes a new presentation will address those concerns, making it clear that UIHC is trying to expand services for the most complex patients, not duplicate the work of its peers.

“We’ve had various different ideas for what to do with this land, but only when we really thought through this recent iteration did we really identify a solid purpose for it,” he said. “This is something we’ve put a lot of thought and planning into.”