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Upper Chesapeake purchased Target property, other land around its planned Aberdeen facility. What does it mean for the store’s future?

Upper Chesapeake Health purchased two properties adjoining the 36 acres it previous purchased to build a freestanding medical facility in Aberdeen, including the Target retail store property at 1025 Middelton Road and 11.5 undeveloped acres directly behind it.
Upper Chesapeake Health purchased two properties adjoining the 36 acres it previous purchased to build a freestanding medical facility in Aberdeen, including the Target retail store property at 1025 Middelton Road and 11.5 undeveloped acres directly behind it. (DAVID ANDERSON | AEGIS STAFF, The Aegis)

Last July, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health announced it had finalized the purchase of 36 acres off Route 22 in Aberdeen, where it intends to build a freestanding medical facility as part of its hospital consolidation plans, which include closing Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace.

In December, the health system purchased two adjoining properties totaling more than 20 additional acres, including the Target retail store property at 1025 Middelton Road and 11.5 undeveloped acres directly behind it.

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State property tax records show UCH bought both properties Dec. 13 for $8.45 million from Stancill’s Inc., a Perryville mining and manufacturing company that also maintains a real estate portfolio.

That purchase gives Upper Chesapeake “about 60 contiguous acres” for its Aberdeen campus, giving the health system the flexibility to expand services if needed in the future, said Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of Upper Chesapeake Health.

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“As health care continues to evolve, they have a larger footprint to work off of,” he said.

While work is not expected to be completed on the new Aberdeen medical facility until about 2023, the long-term future of the Target store is unclear.

The health system will uphold Target’s current lease, according to Robin Luxon, UCH’s senior vice president of corporate strategies, marketing and business development.

“When their lease is due up for renewal, we will certainly engage in conversations regarding what their plans” are for the property, Luxon said.

However, neither Upper Chesapeake nor a spokesperson for Target would discuss the length or any other specifics of the retailer’s lease in Aberdeen.

“At Target, we’re committed to serving guests in the Aberdeen community. We don’t have any additional details to share at this time,” Liz Hancock wrote in an email. The Aberdeen Target opened in 1997.

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said he was aware of the purchase of Target property and adjacent parcel by Upper Chesapeake, but the health system hasn’t discussed the purchase with the city, and he couldn’t speak to the landlord-tenant relationship there.

Martha Mallonee, a spokesperson for UCH, said it had not purchased any additional adjacent or non-adjacent land in Aberdeen for a potential future expansion of medical facilities there.

Sheldon noted Upper Chesapeake adopted a similar strategy of purchasing surrounding land when it opened its Bel Air hospital in 2000.

The initial site off of Route 24 comprised 25 acres, but the health system purchased adjacent parcels over five years to support the hospital’s expansion with facilities such as a cancer treatment center and ambulatory surgery center. The hospital site covers about 50 acres today, according to Sheldon.

Sheldon said “it puts a sparkle in my eye” to know that Upper Chesapeake has flexibility in developing its Aberdeen campus, “to service the eastern part of the county in a way that, today, we can’t even envision.”

“It will be important for everybody that is involved in that to recognize that’s a development opportunity that we need to collectively capitalize on,” he said.

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The location of the University of Maryland Medical Center Aberdeen campus along Route 22 in Aberdeen.
The location of the University of Maryland Medical Center Aberdeen campus along Route 22 in Aberdeen. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Upper Chesapeake purchased the 36-acre property in Aberdeen from Merritt Properties for $18 million. Located at 635 McHenry Road, it is visible from Route 22 and about one mile from the I-95 interchange. The purchase included an existing 95,250-square-foot building that UCH plans to use for primary care and other medical specialty offices as well as additional outpatient services.

A three-story, 125,000-square-foot freestanding medical facility is slated to be built behind the existing building. It would include a full-service emergency room as well as short-stay medical beds for patient observation, beds reserved for emergency mental health patients, medical imaging and rehabilitation services. Officials say the emergency department will be twice the size of the existing ER at Harford Memorial.

The 33-bed psychiatric hospital — which will include shell space for seven more beds — will be built on the same campus and offer inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services.

The next phases of a project include completing design work, obtaining local permits and starting construction, following the April 16 approval of the Upper Chesapeake’s hospital consolidation plan by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

All facilities under UCH’s reconfiguration plan, which also includes an expansion of Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, are expected to be completed by early 2023, however Sheldon said that timeline depends on multiple factors, though, including any impacts the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has on the economy.

Though much of the focus on Upper Chesapeake’s plans have focused on the City of Havre de Grace’s displeasure with the decision to close Harford Memorial, McGrady said he is excited that the project is moving forward.

“Aberdeen is going to be the center of health care delivery in the region,” he said.

Harford Memorial Hospital, which has been part of downtown Havre de Grace for more than a century, will be closed once the Aberdeen facilities are constructed and approved to open.

Aegis reporter James Whitlow contributed to this article.

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