The idea: Oncology services for Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) in Columbia, Tenn., had long been provided on the main hospital campus, but patients were required to go to multiple locations for the totality of diagnosis and treatment. To provide more convenience to patients and their families, the hospital decided to relocate its cancer center, hiring HFR Design (Brentwood, Tenn.) to conduct a feasibility study on building a new facility on property adjacent to the campus.

However, the cost to construct a new building from the ground up turned out to be prohibitive. Instead, hospital leadership came to the conclusion that placing the center in a local, half-empty shopping mall would result in three good outcomes: convenience for patients, a lower construction cost, and an economic boost for the mall and city.


How they did it: HFR Design developed a master plan, then designed and renovated the space to convert it to fit Maury Regional’s needs. The new, larger center—located a couple of miles from downtown Columbia—will consolidate all cancer services in one location. Maury Regional’s radiation treatment area remains on campus for now, but will be moved to the mall location in Phase 2 of the project. 

Previously housing a department store, the space already had the typical department store structure, which allowed the design team to use unusually high ceilings to create an open, inviting, and non-institutional environment. The site also provided close proximity of parking and ease of wayfinding to improve the patient experience.

And due to the cost savings accrued by not constructing a freestanding building, it was also possible to include high-quality finishes throughout.


The big reveal: The new center includes a pharmacy capable of filling all the medication needs of the patients as well as chemotherapy mixtures. Oncologists’ offices are also located in the new space, with more physicians to move in once the radiation addition is open. An education center for cancer patients and their families is another component in the mall space that helps make it a one-stop shop.

In the new setting, friends and family accompanying patients have the option of shopping in the mall while the patient is being treated. The cancer center also includes a large hospitality lobby with comfortable seating for those who wish to stay while patients visit the infusion suite or, later, the radiation unit.

When complete, the project will represent a total investment by the hospital of approximately $8 million. The new center will be 39,640 square feet, which includes the existing 19,490 square feet for Phase 1, the 13,932-square-foot radiation unit that is Phase 2, and future leasable areas.

Ron Franks is chairman of HRF Design and can be reached at