Passport’s Move West is The Miracle on 18th Street

The site at 18th and Broadway

The West End will never be the same again, thanks to the momentum from two major development announcements in the last week. Today Passport Health Plan announced that it has acquired the 20-acre property at 18th and Broadway that was most recently targeted for a new Walmart. It will move its corporate headquarters there and support efforts to create other health and wellness businesses.

The move, expected in 2020, will involve at least 500 employees. Passport CEO Mark Carter, speaking inside a tent on the site to dozens of interested parties, said that number could grow to 1,000 in five years’ time.  In attendance at the event were dozens of elected officials and their representatives.

Coupled with last week’s announcement that a new YMCA will be built across the street, the idea that the area will become a focus for health and wellness-related businesses is a reality, and a godsend for the area, according to several preachers who shared the stage for the announcement with Carter, Mayor Greg Fischer and developer Teresa Bridgewaters.

Passport’s new building will be 120,000 square feet, and the company will move from its current location in Commerce Crossings.

Carter said that his decision to move to the West End was prompted by an opinion piece he read by Rev. Kevin Cosby (who gave the invocation here) back when Walmart pulled out of the site. Carter credited Fischer for “jumping all over this at the first phone call.”

Mark Carter
Mark Carter

Bridgewaters, who prior to Wal-mart had planned another development for the site, said she never gave up on development of the parcel and that the third time was a charm. She said Carter was “heaven-sent.”

Fischer called it “the right move at the right time” and said the city’s momentum has created $10 billion in capital construction projects, an unprecedented level of development.

The Rev. Kirk Bush praised Carter and called his decision the “Miracle on 18th Street.” He compared the efforts to get a tenant for the site to Muhammad Ali getting up after being knocked down.

According to a Passport release, the company paid $9.1 million for the land, and the project is subject to approval by the Metro Council.

“With our community partners and local residents, we hope to add services to the community beyond clinical carom services that are are person-centered,” Carter said. “We realize that access to housing, food, jobs, and other resources are key drivers to good health and wellness.”