Residents shopping for medical care in West Akron soon will have an option of a new type of practice within a rehabilitated former retail shopping strip on South Hawkins Avenue.

The Summa Center for Health Equity at New Seasons is part of the Village at New Seasons, a development that combines senior housing with commercial space.

The center is hosting an invitation-only grand opening celebration today, followed by a community open house in the coming months.

The health system is leasing 10,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space for the medical center, which will house three primary-care physicians: Drs. E. Demond Scott, Teresa Myers and Elina Shakya.

But unlike typical physician practices, the center also will offer a community room with a demonstration kitchen for healthy cooking classes, access to social workers and behavioral health experts and space for research, education and other community services.

“It's not enough to just say, ‘Go out and eat healthy,’ ” Scott said. “We’ll be able to show them how to prepare healthy meals at home.”

The idea is to provide coordinated services that address the high levels of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors among the primarily African-American residents in the neighborhood surrounding the center, said Scott, executive director of Summa’s Center for Health Equality.

Along with chronic disease self-management classes, the practice also could offer different types of medical care, such as shared medical appointments that bring together patients with similar problems.

“We see that through this care delivery where the patients are managing their disease and reaching goals in between their physician appointments, there will be fewer emergency department visits, fewer inpatient hospital visits,” said Roxia Boykin, vice president of community benefit and diversity at Summa.

When it opens to patients March 5, the new center will serve as a “learning laboratory” for a new way to provide health care, said Steven Schmidt, the foundation's chief operating officer. If successful, the center could be replicated in other communities.

The charitable support arm of the health system is providing a $500,000 grant toward the project to pay for administrative and research staff and the costs of community programming that will be offered. A $247,000 federal grant helped pay for furniture and medical equipment.

Some of the services being offered aren’t reimbursed now by private insurers or government programs. But health-care reform is moving the nation toward a payment system that rewards doctors and hospitals for preventive care that keeps people healthy, Schmidt said.

“A large number of these individuals we will be seeing and serving are individuals with chronic illnesses,” Schmidt said. “The lack of effective management of those chronic diseases is really what is contributing to the burden of expenses in health care right now.”

The Village at New Seasons project and accompanying health center was the vision of the House of the Lord, which purchased the aging shopping center near the church several years ago for $800,000.

The church worked with Testa Cos. and East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. on the $11.4 million venture.

The top three floors — completed about a year ago — contain 50 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for low- and moderate-income residents 55 and older.

East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. is the developer and majority owner of the apartment section. The housing development group financed the project with $5 million in equity and a $500,000 loan from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency; nearly $2 million in federal stimulus money; and $750,000 in grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati and the city of Akron.

Testa Commercial Real Estate Group is handling the commercial leasing. Testa Cos. was the general contractor and construction lender for the project. Testa Enterprises Inc. is part owner of the commercial space.

The Summa Center at New Seasons is expected to have about 2,500 patient visits the first year.

For more information about the Summa Center, call 330-865-5333.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or chpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.