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Former Jeannette hospital attracts Calif. buyer

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A California company wants to acquire the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital to house part of its expansive business operations and employ up to 200 people, according to Westmoreland County and city officials.

Excela Health, which owns the property not far from Route 30, and the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. have aggressively marketed the site.

Representatives of JH Capital Group of Calabasas, Calif., met Wednesday with Excela officials; county Commissioners Chuck Anderson and Tyler Courtney; state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield; Mayor Robert Carter; state Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township; city attorney Scott Avolio, and county development director Jason Rigone about its plans for the former hospital.

Ron Ott, senior vice president of community and government relations at Excela, said he could not discuss details of the meeting because of a confidentiality agreement.

“Excela Health and the Westmoreland County IDC have been aggressively pursuing an alternative use for the former Jeannette Hospital,” Ott said in a statement. “In the interest of identifying a suitable use for the facility quickly, we are meeting regularly with individuals who may be interested.

“As much as we'd like to discuss details, we don't want to compromise potential deals, and confidentiality agreements with potential suitors prohibit us from discussing who they are,” he said.

Excela officials said last year that if they could not sell or market the building, they would demolish it so it wouldn't become a hazardous eyesore like the nearby Monsour Medical Center.

Anderson said the next move is up to Excela.

“It's their building,” he said. “My interest is in economic development. If we can, we'll try to help it along.”

JH Capital buys and collects debt, mainly from credit card firms, student loans, liens and health care facilities; operates call centers in Minnesota, Florida and Missouri; and controls financial services and technology companies that have contracts with the federal government.

Douglas Jacobsen is the CEO of JH Capital Group and president of Jacobsen Holdings, which owns shopping centers anchored by Walgreens, Best Buy and Home Depot, according to the company website. Nine companies are under the umbrella of JH Capital.

Chairman Norman Kravetz co-owns Beverly Hills Polo Club, Budget Rent A Truck and RBE Capital Partners, among other companies, according to the website.

Excela could sell the building to Jacobsen or give it to him. Or the hospital could give the building to Jeannette, which could turn it over to Jacobsen.

Jacobsen did not respond to a request for comment.

Carter said the redevelopment of the former hospital could be the economic shot in the arm the financially troubled city needs.

“If the deal goes through, it's Jeannette's one big break with bettering itself with its finances,” Carter said.

Like many Third Class Cities and small boroughs in the state, Jeannette is landlocked with no space for commercial or industrial development. By developing existing properties, such as Jeannette District Memorial, Monsour hospital or the former Jeannette Glass plant, the city could broaden its tax base.

If JH Capital acquires the building, it would go back on the tax rolls. Because the former hospital was tax-exempt as a public charity, the owners paid no real estate taxes. The estimated 150 to 200 employees who could work at the company would pay local taxes.

Avolio said Jacobsen contacted him about the property. Jacobsen, an architect and contractor, recently inspected the facility.

“It's nice to see it come to fruition,” Avolio said. “It's the kind of economic infusion necessary to get us back on balance.”

Jacobsen initially was interested in the former Monsour Medical Center but determined that Jeannette hospital better suited the company's plans.

The city condemned Monsour after it closed in 2006. County officials estimate it would cost nearly $1 million to demolish the deteriorated, tower-like structure overlooking Route 30, and the facility carries heavy debt.

By comparison, the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital is in good physical condition and has an adjoining parking garage.

It was founded by the Sisters of Charity in the 1950s and closed in 2002. Excela Health acquired the facility for $14 million in 2007 but closed it in 2011.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or

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