SEMINOLE — A county agency plans to build affordable apartments on the site of the former Women's Hospital.
The Pinellas County Housing Authority paid about $1.38 million on April 30 for the 12-acre site that sits on the western edge of Lake Seminole, according to Pinellas County Property Appraiser records. The land has an assessed value of about $1.07 million.
"We're really excited about it," said Debra Johnson, housing authority executive director. "The final plans have not been developed, but we want to build, construct affordable housing on that land."
The agency has a commitment, she said, to making sure military veterans have a place to live. It's too soon, Johnson said, to know whether the complex would be earmarked for veterans only, but it "will most definitely have a veterans preference." Design, she said, will also take into account the needs of disabled veterans.
The housing authority is an independent agency, created in 1965, that uses public and private funding to provide housing and rental assistance to Pinellas residents. Currently, the PCHA is helping about 10,000 people through agency-owned affordable housing, public housing, assisted living and the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher program, according to its website, pinellashousing.com. The authority's programs cover all unincorporated and incorporated areas of Pinellas County with the exception of the cities of Clearwater, Dunedin, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs.
Mark Ely, the city of Seminole's development director, said the hospital land at 9575 Seminole Blvd. is already zoned for up to 65 units of multifamily housing. If the authority wants to build more, it will have to get the Seminole City Council's approval.
"They have to figure out what they want to do," Ely said. "We look forward to looking at their proposal, whatever their proposal is."
Incorporated in 1971 as Lake Seminole Hospital, the name was changed in the late 1980s to Seminole Women's Hospital when it tried to carve a niche as a birthing center. The name was changed again in 1995 to Seminole Hospital & Women's Center in a bid to broaden its patient base.
Soon after, then owners, Community Health Systems, asked the state to allow the hospital to convert to a long-term care facility, which would serve patients too sick to go home but who did not need to stay in a more expensive hospital. The state rejected the proposal.
Bad news soon followed when the Rader Institute moved its eating disorders clinic out of the hospital.
In 1996, the hospital shut down days after Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. bought it. Columbia also petitioned the state to turn what at the time was a 99-bed acute care hospital into a 65-bed long-term care facility. The state also rejected that proposal and it has remained closed since.
In 2004, the city rezoned about 6 acres of the property from institutional and commercial to residential to clear the way for a developer to build 65 townhomes or condominiums. Those never materialized.
But in 2007, a different property owner, Enterprise II of Florida LLC, was ordered to stop work when an anonymous caller to to the countyreported "excavation of dirt from former Lake Seminole Hospital property into Lake Seminole. She observed work at night — workers are dumping dirt into Lake Seminole."
Cornerstone Community Bank assumed ownership and agreed in 2011 to correct the environmental issues. The bank also put the property up for sale for $2 million. The housing authority offered about $1.1 million.
The two spent the next two years dickering until they agreed on the $1.38 million price.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.