Demolition of Jeannette building scheduled to begin in spring
By Richard Gazarik
Published: Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
Excela Health will demolish the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital because it failed to attract buyers or potential developers for the facility that once was a mainstay in the City of Jeannette.
The health system announced on Monday it will start clearing the site in the spring. City attorney Scott Avolio said on Monday night that the demolition will begin before summer.
Once the building is torn down, Excela will retain ownership, Avolio said. Hospital officials estimate it will cost $2 million to demolish the building.
Excela CEO Robert Rogalski, Avolio and Jeannette Mayor Richard Jacobelli met last week to discuss Excela's plans. Rogalski said Excela tried unsuccessfully to sell the Jefferson Avenue site for the past two years.
“When Excela Health ceased operations in the building, we pledged to the City of Jeannette that we would not allow the unoccupied structure to become a blight on the neighborhood from disuse,” Rogalski said. “We don't want to allow any more time to pass without taking action.
“Given the feedback from prospective tenants and buyers, we are certain the land alone will have greater value to a developer given the projected costs to retrofit an aging structure.”
In January, JH Capital of St. Louis abandoned its plans to acquire the property and relocate some of its businesses to the facility because studies showed it would be too expensive to renovate the building. Excela had a dozen inquiries about the former hospital that included a film company, human service agencies and small businesses, but each found the renovation costs exorbitant.
Jacobelli said he was pleased Excela was going to act quickly.
“I fully understand the reasons for this decision and know it was made with careful deliberation,” he said. “Excela Health is a good corporate citizen and is honoring the commitment to the city to act prudently regarding the upkeep of a building in need of substantial investment to remain viable.”
Excela had pledged to the city two years ago that if it could not sell the building, it would not allow it to become an eyesore like the former Monsour Medical Center on Route 30.
Jeannette condemned the medical center because it was a public safety hazard, and Westmoreland County plans to acquire that property through a free and clear sale sometime this year. Monsour had become a haunt of vandals, trespassers and arsonists who set fire to the building.
The city is banking on the two former hospitals being developed to generate more tax revenue and create more jobs through commercial development.
The Pittsburgh Mercy Health System had an affiliation with Jeannette District Memorial Hospital in 2002. Excela acquired Jeannette in 2008 but closed the facility in 2011 after transferring health care services to Excela Square at Norwin in North Huntingdon.
The system employs 212 who live in Jeannette and still operates a nearby medical office building and parking garage.
The hospital opened in 1959 after the community raised the money for construction.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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