New CareSource office tower strengthens core of city

Downtown Dayton is poised to get its first new office tower in nearly a decade from the same company that has already brought hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in payroll to the area, helping strengthen the core of the city.

CareSource, the fast-growing nonprofit health insurer based downtown, is planning to build a 250,000-square-foot, seven-story office tower at the corner of Jefferson and First streets near its headquarters at Main Street and Monument Avenue, the company announced Thursday.

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Construction on the office tower, to be called CareSource Center City, is slated for early next year, and the project is expected to be completed in 2019, company officials said.

“More than 10 years ago, we took a bold step in the height of the economic recession and invested in Dayton by building the CareSource headquarters,” said CareSource President and CEO Pamela Morris. “We were confident then in the uniqueness of downtown and stepped up to lead the way in identifying underutilized land and reinvigorating it with new purpose. Since that time, we have exceeded what I could have imagined for us.”

Representatives from the City of Dayton, Montgomery County, the local Port Authority, JobsOhio, the Dayton Development Coalition, Dayton Public Schools, and the Downtown Dayton Partnership, among others, applauded CareSource’s efforts at a press conference announcing the new building.

“When CareSource grows, Dayton grows,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

CareSource — primarily a Medicaid managed care provider that also sells commercial health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — is downtown’s largest employer with about 2,100 employees in four different buildings, including its headquarters, “Ballpark Village” offices at 220 E. Monument Ave., across the street from the Dayton Dragon’s stadium; call-center offices at 40 West Second St.; and recently renovated office space on the third and fourth floors of the Kettering Tower.

The new building will be in such close proximity to the CareSource headquarters and the Ballpark Village offices that it will create a “walkable campus-like environment for employees within the core of downtown Dayton,” the company said in a release.

The new building would expand the company’s downtown office footprint to about 600,000 square feet that it currently occupies. CareSource leases most of the office space, except for the headquarters building, which it owns. But the company plans to let the leases expire and redistribute an undetermined number of staff from those downtown offices to the new building, which will better facilitate the company’s long-term growth plans, according to Morris.

“We have managed our space needs by renovating existing locations in downtown,” she said. “But as we forecast for the future, our experience and analysis has proven that it is more cost efficient to own and operate a new building than to lease and renovate existing space.”

CareSource and the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority will work together to develop the office building on the former site of Patterson Co-op school. The now-vacant land is set to be purchased by the Port Authority from the Dayton school district for $1 million in a transaction approved by the school board Wednesday evening.

In addition to receiving $1 million in cash from the Port Authority, the school district will also receive certain funding and services from CareSource, according to a resolution approved by the board.

CareSource declined to elaborate on the details until the project is finalized, which is contingent on tax-credit financing and other incentives from state and local authorities, officials said. Still, Morris said she didn’t anticipate any roadblocks preventing the project from moving forward.

The new building would be the first high-rise office building to open downtown since CareSource’s headquarters opened in 2008 with the help of the Port Authority, which also helped build the nonprofit’s adjacent parking garage, representing a combined investment of nearly $75 million.

The price-tag for the new office building has yet to be determined, but CareSource officials said the investment is sorely needed to accommodate the explosive growth in its business operations and employment.

Over the past five years, company-wide employment has grown from 1,200 to 3,100 in four states — including 860 new employees added in the past year alone — while membership in its health plans has grown to more than 1.5 million.

Much of the company’s growth can be attributed to its roll-out of private health plans through federal Health Insurance Marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, and the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio in 2014.

And the company is showing no signs of slowing down, projecting membership in its CareSource-brand marketplace plans to grow by 50,000 to 75,000 next year, on top of 124,000 current enrollees in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Those figures don’t include thousands of new Medicaid members newly eligible for coverage as a result of expansion, which has already added more than 600,000 low-income Ohioans to the state’s Medicaid rolls.

CareSource has also benefited from the implementation of the MyCare Ohio program, and the launch of Medicare Advantage plans in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

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