St. Petersburg leaders approve downtown land swap

Published Aug. 23, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council voted Thursday to swap properties with All Children's Hospital, allowing the organization to build a downtown medical tower and create at least 200 more jobs.

"Man, this is so many wins I don't know how to say anything other than thank you," council Chairman Karl Nurse told hospital representatives.

The deal faced almost no resistance from council members, who supported it unanimously. The expansion, along with other ongoing projects in the area, is expected to spur more retail and restaurants.

The city would give the hospital 1.5 acres it owns at Fourth Street on Sixth Avenue S, a property recently appraised at $4.5 million. In exchange, the city would get 2.5 acres the hospital owns at Fourth Street S and 11th Avenue. The city plans to create a park there for Pinellas Trail expansion.

The vacant land is appraised at $828,000 — more than $3 million less than the property the city would receive — but that disparity is misleading.

The land All Children's would receive is under lease through 2022 to the YWCA. Factoring in that contract, the adjusted property value is $1.99 million.

All Children's representatives told council members they are negotiating with the YWCA, but declined to specify where those talks stand.

The hospital has offered the YWCA $100,000 for every year remaining on its lease and another $100,000 for planning efforts, city records show. The two sides have discussed such a deal since 2004.

YWCA Tampa Bay CEO Lenice Emanuel, who was not in attendance Thursday, has previously spoken about the negotiations in optimistic terms.

Even if the YWCA moves early, All Children's representatives said, they might not break ground before 2022. The agreement approved Thursday only requires the hospital to begin construction within 13 years.

All Children's representative Amy Maguire said the new building will likely expand the organization's clinical operations and provide additional critical care to kids. It is too early to speculate on further details, she said.

The tower, which will contain at least 100,000 square feet, is part of a new campus master plan still in development.

The deal is especially attractive to city leaders because All Children's is now a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Beginning next summer, Hopkins will begin a new medical residency program at All Children's, which is seen as critical to transforming the hospital into an academic powerhouse in the model of the Baltimore institution.

Perhaps most important to council members, the new building will further develop the health care corridor.

"That is where sick people will get well," Mayor Bill Foster said of the area. "That will be the 'it' corridor. That is the vision."

Times files were used in this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at