Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

All Children's Hospital planning downtown St. Petersburg expansion

ST. PETERSBURG — In another sign that the downtown revival is once again burgeoning, All Children's Hospital plans to build a new office tower and add more than 100 jobs in a deal that requires a land swap with the city of St. Petersburg.

The city would give the hospital 1.5 acres it owns at Fourth Street on Sixth Avenue S, allowing for a tower to be built that would exceed 250,000 square feet. The county property appraiser values the land at $754,000.

The hospital would give the city 2.5 acres it owns at Fourth Street S and 11th Avenue, which the city would use to create a park for a planned Pinellas Trail expansion. The property appraiser values the vacant land at $256,000.

No money would change hands in a deal that is likely to come before the City Council in September.

"It's pretty sizable," said Rick Mussett, the city's senior administrator for development. "It's a big deal in the sense that the medical sector is one of our biggest economic drivers."

The proposal follows an announcement this month that Jabil Circuit is considering building a new worldwide headquarters near Tropicana Field, a five-block project that would further transform downtown.

That, coupled with hundreds of apartment units already under construction, could trigger the need for more retail and restaurants.

City Council Chairman Karl Nurse said he's excited by the new jobs, which could range from doctor to janitor. He also thinks the project could help transform the health care corridor because businesses may move to be near All Children's, which is now a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"It's possibly our biggest, near-term economic opportunity," Nurse said. "Johns Hopkins has such enormous credibility."

Nurse said he was not bothered by the disparity in land values.

"It does not concern me because Johns Hopkins can be a significant anchor to build an economic base," he said. "The land swap is not dollars for dollars."

In a proposal sent to the city in June, All Children's officials said they would use the land to expand patient care, education, research and advocacy programs.

"The property would further spur the health care corridor and commitment to St. Petersburg and provide extensive development," wrote All Children's president Dr. Jonathan Ellen.

If approved, the deal also could create "many permanent high income jobs" from clinical and academic programs and opportunities for vendors, Ellen wrote.

Last summer, Hopkins won approval to start a new medical residency program at All Children's, which was seen as critical to transforming the hospital into an academic powerhouse in the model of the Baltimore institution.

While the first doctors in that program won't arrive until July 2014, All Children's is courting candidates.

All Children's has long known it would need room to grow, said spokeswoman Cindy Rose. Joining Johns Hopkins "kind of ramped up the conversation," she said.

She could not yet give specifics on the programs that would be located in the tower, but expects them to include clinical and research space as the hospital plans to add two new endowed chairs in the next few years. She did not have a timetable for when construction could begin.

Still, another deal must be reached before a medical tower could go vertical.

The city's land is currently leased until 2022 to the YWCA of Tampa Bay.

The 22,000-square-foot campus holds a child care center and a building for housing. The lease will transfer with the land.

All Children's has offered the YWCA $100,000 for every year remaining on its lease. The hospital also offered $100,000 for planning efforts, city records show.

Both sides have talked about such a deal since 2004, records show. If an accord isn't reached, the city still plans to swap the land with the All Children's, Mussett said.

Rose declined to say where talks stand with the YWCA, but said the conversations were going well: "We care about what happens with children so we're not going to boot the YWCA out."

Lenice Emanuel, CEO of YWCA Tampa Bay, sounded optimistic.

"This is a positive collaboration," she said. "We see it as win-win."

This year, the YWCA facility served 262 people, with 80 percent being children. The agency, she said, will continue its services if it relocates.

One real estate expert said adjoining neighborhoods will prosper.

Paula Clair Smith, a broker-associate at Commercial Asset Partners, once represented a developer who wanted to build housing on the hospital land, but All Children's declined the deal.

The current plan, she said, makes sense.

"They're going to upgrade that area," she said. "It adds value."

Times staff writer Jodie Tillman contributed to this report. Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459.

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