CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay's biggest health care group has submitted plans to build its corporate headquarters here on land formerly occupied by a sprawling public housing complex.
BayCare Health System's new 40-acre campus would center employee training and administrative functions in 300,000 square feet of office space on Drew Street just west of McMullen-Booth Road.
Construction of the $49 million office complex could begin next summer, with the first of two buildings opening in late 2013.
The BayCare network, Tampa Bay's second-largest private employer behind Publix, includes more than a third of local hospitals, among them Morton Plant, St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg and St. Joseph's in Tampa.
Its 18,500 employees work in 10 hospitals and more than 200 outpatient centers, emergency rooms, labs, urgent care clinics and doctors' offices across Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
BayCare's lease on its current headquarters, an office complex near the south end of the Bayside Bridge, expires in two years, spokeswoman Lisa Patterson said.
The new campus will be in a more central location, have three times as much space and allow the 500 employees relocated from headquarters to set up classrooms and offices from scratch.
"This will give us the ability to operate our own space," Patterson said. "This will give us the room to grow."
Patterson anticipated few, if any, new hires for the headquarters. The not-for-profit group is exempt from paying property taxes.
The group submitted site plans to the city Wednesday as part of a request for rezoning. If the city approves the change, BayCare plans to buy the 40 acres from the Clearwater Housing Authority for about $4.4 million.
The property, at 2985 and 2995 Drew St., is bordered by homes, a mobile home park and Calvary Baptist Church.
For years, the land was occupied by Condon Gardens, a rundown public housing project blighted by drugs, crime and violence. To shake off the stigma, housing officials renamed the apartment complex Jasmine Courts and spent about $1 million for renovations.
In 2005, with federal funds for public housing projects declining, the Housing Authority demolished the aging maze of duplexes. Housing officials announced plans to build a mixed-income subdivision to be called Parkview Village.
Yet the land remained vacant. The low-lying property, where apartments had often flooded during rainfall, was likely too costly to fill on the Housing Authority's sinking budget, Mayor Frank Hibbard said.
Messages left for Housing Authority CEO Jacqueline Rivera were not returned.
BayCare's planners, including Clearwater architecture firm Klar and Klar, will prevent flooding by digging four large ponds and using the dirt as foundation for the buildings. Two three-story buildings will sit at the center of the site, overlooking a courtyard.
Most of the campus will be covered with 1,600 surface parking spaces, shaded by bald cypress trees, shumard oaks and foxtail and sabal palms.
BayCare also will build PSTA bus shelters and a crosswalk on Drew Street to provide access to softball fields and picnic areas across the street at the city's Eddie C. Moore athletic complex.
Contact Drew Harwell at [email protected] or (727) 445-4170.