by By Michael C. Lowe | February 01, 2011

The following projects, all in progress, are designed to work in tandem with local convention facilities in an effort to make their cities more hospitable to medical/pharmaceutical meetings. 

cleveland medical mart, medical meetingsThe Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center

Last month, the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center broke ground on what is expected to be the new cornerstone of the city's convention and medical communities. The complex, to open in 2013, will be feature an exhibition hall, a convention center and a medical mart with permanent showrooms.

The exhibition and convention facilities will be below ground, under the historic Cleveland Mall. The convention facility will include about 230,000 square feet of exhibition space, divisible into three event halls, under a 30-foot-high ceiling. A separate 32,000-square-foot column-free ballroom also will be able to accommodate exhibits.

In addition, the convention center will offer 60,000 square feet of meeting space divided among some 50 meeting rooms, the largest of which will seat up to 2,400 people. Rooms will be  equipped with wireless Internet and high-definition monitors for streaming videoconferencing, and some will have  specialized facilities for medical training or hands-on education sessions.

Both the convention center and the ballroom will link directly to local medical institutions via videoconferencing and satellite, making it possible for attendees to virtually observe the hospital operating room and research lab.

The medical mart portion of the complex will include an estimated 120,000 square feet of permanent showroom space available for major medical manufacturers and service providers. The mart will provide medical organizations with some 65 spaces to rent on a permanent basis as offices, reception areas or additional exhibit space.

Cleveland itself is home to the acclaimed Cleveland Clinic, while Northeast Ohio features more than 600 health-related organizations, including 60 hospitals, and 27 universities that account for more than 20 medical education programs.

Nashville Medical Trade Center, medical meetingNashville Medical Trade Center

"Our health-care industry has always been there, but has gone relatively unnoticed until now," says Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. That should change thanks to the Nashville Medical Trade Center, now rising fro     m city's old downtown convention center building along the Cumberland River.

Set for completion in 2013, the center will use the existing 140,000-square-foot trade show hall for temporary exhibitions, and all convention and meeting space will get a thorough revamp. An additional 12 floors are under construction and will house more than 600 permanent showrooms that will be leased to medical organizations and industry leaders.

The center is expected to open within months of Nashville's new Music City Center convention hall, though Spyridon doesn't see the two exhibition venues competing for business. If anything, he notes, the two can work together, with talks already under way to create joint sales pitches.

Health care is Nashville's largest industry, with some 250 related companies calling the city home, including the Hospital Corporation of America, the largest private operator of hospitals in the world. The city also is home to the acclaimed Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

University of Central Florida College of Medicine, medical meetingLake Nona Medical City, Orlando

In 2009, Orlando was the second most popular destination for medical meetings in the United States and the top destination averaged over the previous 13 years, according to the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitions Association, and the city aims to keep its standing.

Five minutes east of Orlando International Airport (and adjacent to the 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf course at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club) is a 600-acre plot of land that is quickly developing into a $2 billion medical complex, housing an array of research institutes, universities and hospitals.

The centerpiece of the project is the University of Central Florida College of Medicine (, a new 50-acre health sciences campus that already is attracting an influx of researchers, academics and students to the area.

The university's Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, completed in 2009, is a 198,000-square-foot research-intensive educational facility concentrating on biotechnology and medical laboratory sciences. The neighboring 170,000-square-foot medical education facility, completed last year, includes a new health-sciences library in addition to virtual-simulation labs equipped with cutting-edge medical technology.

The complex also features the Sanford-Burnham Institute of Medical Research (, which opened in May 2009 and is dedicated to developing treatments for infectious and inflammatory diseases, while also serving as a research hub for neuroscience, aging, obesity and more.

Nemours Children's Hospital, medical meetingsUnder construction is the 1.2 million-square-foot, $665 million Orlando VA Medical Center and the 630,000-square-foot Nemours Children's Hospital, both set for completion next year. Additionally, last October, the University of Florida broke ground on its 100,000-square-foot research and academic center that will be the new home to its College of Pharmacy, various biomedical research laboratories and a drug development center.

Unlike Cleveland's and Nashville's medical complexes, the facilities at Lake Nona do not include a dedicated convention center or conference space. However, the complex is working with Visit Orlando, the area's destination management organization, to enable streaming content to the Orlando Convention Center, as well to arrange for group tours of the new medical facilities.

Metro Orlando's comprehensive health-care community is bolstered by more than 150 biotechnology and life-science companies.