As the new Baptist Hospital goes up, what happens to the old?
Work is underway by Baptist Healthcare to find another use for its facility on Moreno Street once the new hospital opens in about 18 months.
Providing the update were a pair of Baptist vice presidents: Brett Aldridge, strategy and business development; and Jen Grove — external relations. Aldridge says the plan for the old hospital began when plans were being made for a new facility.
“We’ve been here for 70 years, and we really went through the process of 'Can we renovate this campus?' And we learned we couldn’t,” said Aldridge. "And then, could we rebuild in place a new hospital and tear down the old hospital on this current footprint? And we determined that we couldn’t. And so we realized we had to move.”
The plan for the existing campus, Grove said, was made in June 2019 — and continues to run concurrently with construction of the new hospital at Brent Lane and Interstate 110. A community advisory council of more than 70 people from various sectors and walks of life developed the plan.
“Government, not-for-profit, local neighborhood associations, small and large business, military and law enforcement; this campus is 51 acres, very near to downtown, waterfront, and the Interstate,” she said. “So we know it’s a transformational opportunity that our community might not be able to see again.”
The overall plan, says Aldridge, involves a mix of different housing options, with another portion of the campus to become a park.
“We’ve got a beautiful section of the campus that has heritage oaks that has been here forever; part of the Couprefum Park at the turn of the (20th) century,” he said. “So we hope that that can be restored as part of this campus and the city will invest in that opportunity, which brings a sense of place to the campus downstream as we look at others.”
With the 51 acres, Aldridge concedes there are myriad options, and a number of contractors around the nation with experience in large-scale campuses have been consulted.
“Maybe they have new ideas; the coolest part about it to me is the way in which it’s been informed by the community,” he said. "When you’re doing something of this scale and this complexity, having everyone at the table, building it together. I think that’s what we’ve been able to do and see, and so we believe that vision will come to life in a really meaningful way.”
While there’s a hard deadline for completion of the new Baptist Hospital — the fall of 2023 — no such timeline has been developed for renovating the old campus. Shovels won’t go into the ground until the new campus opens.
“But we’re not waiting. That’s why we’re coming out now and talking about this plan and wanting to go to market with this vision,” Aldridge said. “So that developers and interested parties can go ahead and start to realize this vision, and put their plans in place to make to make this vision a reality.”
At this point, the cost of renovation is not known. Grove says they’ll send out a request for proposals from developers willing and able to work with Baptist’s vision.
Baptist officials have learned, she says, about similar large-scale complex redevelopments.
“We’ve been told it could take decades. We don’t want that for this immediate neighborhood or the broader community,” she said. “So that is why we’re starting now and really trying to get ahead of our move in the fall of 2023 — so we can bring some certainty to this immediate neighborhood and the broader community at large about what will follow us here.”
Deciding the old hospital’s fate is a team effort, Grove said.
“We’ve worked with the [Florida] Department of Housing; with the Community Redevelopment Agency, with lots of folks on the team at the city,” said Grove. “And then it really does respond to [Mayor Grover Robinson’s] and the City Council’s stated goal of achieving 500 affordable housing units within five years."