New cancer center coming to Gadsden, city to sell property on First Street for project

Alabama Cancer Care will build a cancer treatment center on First Street in Gadsden, after a property sale approved Tuesday by the Gadsden City Council.

Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority Director David Hooks first presented the proposal to City Council members in an executive session two weeks earlier, and it had progressed to the point that information could be made public.

The council voted to sell city-owned property, the location of the old National Guard armory beside Convention Hall, for $600,000 to the Alabama Cancer Care network for the construction of a treatment center that will bring 15 to 16 health care jobs with a payroll of more than $1 million to Gadsden, CEO Keith Whitley said.

Hooks said the property had appraised for $500,000.

Whitley said this would be the 11th center Alabama Cancer Care has built in central and north Alabama.

Market studies have looked at areas that are underserved for cancer treatment, and those with a large number of patients who go to larger markets for treatment. Whitley said Gadsden is one of those areas where people migrate to larger cities for care.

The treatment center should allow patients to receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment locally, he said, rather than adding the expense and difficulty of an hour or longer drive to Birmingham to the stress of their illness.

He said when the company embarked on this business plan in 1995, he knew it would need to work with indigent patients and work to subsidize their needs.

“If you come in our door, we’re going to figure out a way to get you treated,” Whitley said.

He said one of the radiation oncologists who will work in the facility is currently in the top of his class training in South Carolina, and that another oncologist who’ll practice there currently works in this area.

Alabama Cancer Care has facilities in Fort Payne and in Anniston, among other areas, Whitley said. He said the company has a “hand-holding” relationship with Riverview Regional Medical Center, and also has a relationship with UAB and works with the research hospital in some of its clinical trials.

Project Manager Tim Coker said the building will be 8,000 to 8,500 square feet. The plan is for the front entrance to be on First Street. The east side of the building will face the Coosa River and will have large windows so that patients receiving lengthy treatments can look out over the river.

Coker and Whitley said they want an attractive view at the back of the building — for those inside it and those who will see the property from the outside.

Hooks said the IDA about two years ago identified health care as a target area for industrial/business recruitment, and this is the first project to come from that focus.

Whitley indicated the project would get underway quickly when the sale of property is finalized.