Cleveland's Medical Mart & Convention Center is set to open in 2013 and will feature product showrooms and conferences.

The competition to build America's first medical mart — a one-stop shopping location for hospitals and health systems to buy large capital equipment and other products — appears to be nearing the home stretch.

Officials from the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center say they plan to break ground late this year on a nearly 500,000-square-foot facility in downtown Cleveland that will open in 2013.

About 120,000 square feet of the facility will be devoted to a medical mart that will house permanent showrooms populated by manufacturers of medical equipment, devices, furniture and other products for hospitals. The remaining space will be devoted to a 270,000-square-foot convention center and a 100,000-square-foot conference center.

Meanwhile, developers of the Nashville Medical Trade Center (NMTC), plan to open a 1.5-million-square-foot combination medical mart and convention center in 2013. Plans call for building on top of the city's current convention center, which will be replaced by a new convention center in another part of the city. That work could begin this year, says Cole Daugherty, vice president of communications for Market Center Management Co., the developer of the $250 million NMTC.

Market Center Management in April announced an alliance with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) that calls for space inside the NMTC to be devoted to exclusive education partnership programming, creation of new trade show events and broad-based opportunities to showcase HIMSS partners.

Finally, New York's planned 1.5-million-square-foot World Product Center has been significantly scaled back. Current plans for that project now call for leasing only 300,000 to 350,000 square feet initially, and the developers are still looking for a site, with no opening date set.

The Cleveland project, which is being developed by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI) — the manager of Chicago's Merchandise Mart — will be funded largely from revenue generated by a quarter-cent sales tax hike approved by Cuyahoga County commissioners in 2007. The 20-year tax hike, which has already generated about $90 million for the center, is expected to produce a total of $425 million for the center's building and operations.

Mark Falanga, senior vice president of MMPI, says his group has 25 letters of intent from medical equipment manufacturers to lease space in the medical mart once it's built and about 12 letters of intent from trade show and conference organizers.

Falanga says the idea for the Cleveland Medical Mart came from Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, M.D., president and CEO of The Cleveland Clinic, who is a strong proponent of the medical mart. In a presentation to the City Club of Cleveland in July 2009, Cosgrove said he got the idea as he was traveling overseas to shop for medical equipment for his organization's facilities and learned that a medical mart was planned in Dubai.

As plans move forward on these projects, however, questions remain whether there is enough business to sustain more than one facility of this type. Daugherty argues the market will only be able to sustain one facility and says it will be the NMTC because it's the only one with enough medical mart space to become a one-stop buying destination.

Bob Kehoe, executive editor and associate publisher of Health Facilities Management magazine.