Case Studies

Christopher Romano – Aspect Health Inc.

Raising the bar for healthcare facilities

In need of a new ambulatory care center, the Montefiore Nyack Hospital executives thought they had a viable site at an academic building in New York’s Hudson Valley.

But upon meeting with a real estate consultancy that specializes in healthcare facility development, the hospital’s bosses reconsidered their plans. “Is this truly the best site for such an important endeavor?” questioned the developers at Aspect Health, Inc.

Even though there were no other viable options on the market, Chris Romano and his partners at Aspect Health cross-referenced the patient demographics with zoning maps and, like storm chasers, drove through those neighborhoods while scanning satellite imagery to discover the ideal site, five acres of undeveloped land zoned for medical use in a part of West Nyack convenient to the patient population.

Christopher Romano | Vice President, Construction & Development | Aspect Health Inc.

Christopher Romano | Vice President, Construction & Development | Aspect Health Inc.

Within hours, Romano had the zoning code analyzed and his next masterpiece laid out over a satellite image. Despite the challenges of working with a hospital system in the throes of COVID-19, Aspect purchased the land in December 2021 and grounds were broken the following March for what will be the Comprehensive Orthopedic & Spine Center, which Romano expects to be complete by year’s end.

As is the Aspect Health modus operandi, the Westport, Connecticut-headquartered firm manages all aspects of real estate, financing, design, permitting, construction and property management, ensuring everything exceeds the tenant’s expectations. Aspect Health will continue to own and manage the cutting-edge two-story, 61,000-square-foot facility with Montefiore Health System as its long-term tenant.

It’ll be just what the doctors ordered in this post-pandemic world, complete with an artist’s touch, assures Romano.  Doors, elevators, toilets and sinks have touchless controls while three-stage capture-and-kill HVAC systems mitigate the risk of airborne pathogens, all wrapped-up in a stunning physical environment where every detail is purposefully placed to enhance the patient’s experience.

“These features aren’t mandatory by code but they’re a brand standard for Aspect,” he tells Blueprint in September. “Post-COVID considerations go into everything we do.”

Building on reputation

With Aspect Health constantly evaluating opportunities to enhance healthcare in the Northeast, Romano oversees multiple projects at any given time. Among those on his agenda is a new 20,000-square-foot medical building in Bethel, Connecticut, which will be available for leasing next year.

“Every project we take on tends to be more impressive than the previous,” he says. “It’s a testament to our success.”

The Nutmeg State is a particular stronghold with Aspect Health’s projects including a 43,000-square-foot Danbury facility completed in 2018.

Christopher Romano | Vice President, Construction & Development | Aspect Health Inc.

Ambulatory surgery centers require a covered drop-off area and more parking than a business use. Romano says Aspect Health overcame both of these challenges by converting the first floor of a three-story office building into a covered parking lot. As often is the case, the contractors had many questions, and Romano welcomed them all.

“The best contractors are those who ask the most questions and find the most discrepancies,” he says. “When a contractor says, ‘I’ll deliver’ but doesn’t ask about the details, the silence is disturbing. It shows they are not doing their due diligence.”

Romano emphasizes how any kind of healthcare facility is subject to a myriad of rules and regulations on the local, state, and national fronts. Aspect Health, he says, has got to operate with the same surgical precision as those who reconstruct joints in the facilities. He’s speaking from experience, Romano having been involved in some aspect of construction since 2002, primarily in healthcare, though how he embarked on this career might seem unconventional.

Not just acting

Romano graduated Syracuse University in 2000 with a fine arts degree but wasn’t making headway in the world of performing arts. Instead, he was sweeping floors and doing odd jobs at construction sites to pay off his student loans, and it was on this humble stage where a construction star was born.

“As a classically trained actor in that environment I soaked it all up like a sponge,” he says. “I just played the part from one roll to the next, by the time I looked back, I had climbed the ladder from the bottom rung to the top.”

He honed his construction management skills at Saugatuck Construction Group, leveraged those skills as the owner’s representative for Maplewood Senior Living, and then started orchestrating the entire development process for Maplewood Healthcare- Aspect Health’s predecessor. That experience prepped him for his current position, which Romano deems his most consequential.

Christopher Romano | Vice President, Construction & Development | Aspect Health Inc.

And while he didn’t start off as a builder, he’s now one even in his personal time. On his off-hours, Romano singlehandedly designed and constructed an in-ground pool into the granite hillside of the suburban Connecticut home he shares with his wife and daughters ages 12 and 15. Years earlier, he fashioned something else that might be even more innovative.

As Romano explains, when his wife was pregnant for the first time, he was training for his 30-hour OSHA certification and came across the standards for handling hazardous materials.

“It was at that time that our OB-GYN informed us of the serious health risks associated with a common parasite found in cat feces, called toxoplasmosis,” he says.

The couple having two tabbies and Romano concerned of how his budding family could be at extra risk, he applied OSHA’s hazardous material abatement principles to invent and patent a self-contained cat litter box to protect vulnerable populations from, what he calls, the world’s worst neglected public health burden.

When told that there already are such contraptions at pet stores, he says his is unique as it’s the first to provide complete containment throughout the disposal process. Also odor-free, it straddles the line between medical device and consumer product. As a low-risk device that can prevent a disease, it’s exempt from the complications of FDA regulations, and has potential for health insurance reimbursement. Now, in his free time, he’d like to find a partner to commercialize his patent.

But Romano’s free time is at a premium, between his development duties in a thriving healthcare construction industry and juggling the responsibilities of a family man who’s also leading the remodeling efforts at his church.

Somehow, he still finds time to nurse that entertainment bug. He loves alt-rock and, when time permits, gets together with his musician buddies and, as front man, belts out songs by Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime and other bands from his formative years.

Now in his mid-40s, when asked if he thinks he’ll ever ink a record contract, he chuckles.

“I don’t need to,” he says. “I built a recording studio in my basement and just started developing a live music venue in my hometown. I’ve just got to satisfy that urge to perform.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IX 2023 Edition here.

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