The Trump administration’s failure to contain the coronavirus has claimed another victim this week, and this one is located in one of America’s most esteemed medical institutions.
The Mayo Clinic announced today that its joint venture with Singapore’s Pontic Land to build an 11-storey hotel and medical centre complex on top of an existing building in its Rochester, Minnesota campus had been put on hold indefinitely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The non-profit medical centre’s contribution to the joint venture had been estimated at $190 million, with the Mayo Clinic indicating in a statement that it “remains fully committed to developing and implementing plans that support the facility needs of patients for years to come, including facility expansion opportunities with Pontiac Land Group and other developers.”
600 COVID Cases Each Day
The announcement by the clinic, which operates from a more than 30 building campus in its home city in southeastern Minnesota, came on a day that the state reported more than 600 new cases of COVID-19, and around six months after the real estate project was due to begin construction.
Some forty years ago when Mingtiandi’s founder was a frequent visitor to his physician father’s office in the Mayo complex, the clinic already relied on international travellers for much of its patient base, with Saudi princes leasing whole floors in local hotels for their entourages and Muhammad Ali visiting the campus to claim that he was still fit to fight one more time.
With that international customer base now barred by travel barriers and common sense from visiting the Mayo campus, Pontiac Land’s goal of adding a Minnesota asset to its boutique portfolio seems to have been indefinitely deferred.
The medical tourism joint venture would have added a seven-storey hotel atop the Mayo campus’ Gonda building, while also adding four new floors of medical space, according to the plan first announced by the two parties in 2018.
At the time, the Mayo leadership saw the project as a way to add both patient facilities and guest accommodation to its campus and to a city which has become a biomedical boomtown in recent years, thanks to the 156-year-old clinic’s consistent ranking among the US’ top medical centres.
“Mayo Clinic is experiencing increased requests for care across our campuses, and meeting the current and future medical needs of our patients is our top priority,” C. Michel Harper Jr., M.D., executive dean of the clinic’s practice said at the time.
In March of this year, however, Minnesota’s governor banned elective medical procedures, and while that prohibition was lifted in May, the market for medical tourism in Rochester remains as cold as the city’s famous winters.
In April the Mayo Clinic, which with nearly 70,000 on its payroll is Minnesota’s largest employer, announced that it would cut pay for 20,000 workers. While, its pay cuts and furloughs ended in July, the medical centre has remained cautious about its spending.
Pontiac Struggles Again in the US
For Pontiac Land, which is controlled by Singapore’s billionaire Kwee family, hopes for adding a southeastern Minnesota asset to the Southeast Asian developer’s portfolio will need to wait through at least a few more spring thaws.
In its home city, Pontiac owns the five star hospitality properties including the Regent Singapore, the Ritz-Carlton Millennia, the Conrad Singapore and the Capella Singapore. In addition to its hotel properties, the firm also owns the 41-storey Millennia Tower next to the Promenade MRT station and the nearby 37-storey Centennial tower just behind the Suntec City complex.
The Mayo Clinic’s joint venture with Pontiac, which also developed the Camden Medical Centre in Singapore, would have added an additional US asset to the Singapore firm’s portfolio after it teamed up with Houston’s Hines and Goldman Sachs to develop the high-end 53 West 53rd project in Manhattan in 2013. That condo complex, which is also known as the MOMA Tower, has struggled to sell units since it hit the market in 2015, according to local new reports.