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JPS buying St. Joseph; site may become hospital again

FORT WORTH — The site of the former St. Joseph Hospital on the city’s near south side may once again become a hospital.

Tarrant County Commissioners this morning approved buying the property from a New Jersey-based owner that planned for the past three years to redevelop the 12-story structure and surrounding buildings into apartments, offices and shops.

Commissioners bought the property for the county’s health system, John Peter Smith Hospital. The county paid $5.1 million to Diversified Capital in Lakewood, N.J. for the property.

But, the county also is also paying an additional $750,000 to Nashville-based HCA, which agreed to remove a covenance on the property’s deed that restricted the property’s use. HCA owns Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth. “We went through long and arduous negotiations,” said Neal Adams, a lawyer for JPS.

Commissioner Roy Brooks applauded those efforts, saying, “I know it was not an easy thing to do. But, it is in the best interest of the people of Tarrant County.”

The property is the site of Tarrant County’s first hospital, founded in 1885. It is across Main Street, near Allen Avenue, from John Peter Smith Hospital. A 12-story, redbrick structure was eventually built and called St. Joseph. HCA/Columbia Healthcare Corp. owned the property when the hospital closed, in 1995.

When it sold the property to Heritage Geriatric Housing Development in California it placed restrictions in the deed that the property could not be used as a hospital. Heritage converted the lower floors into an Alzheimer’s center, St. Joseph’s Garden. It closed in 2000.

Diversified bought the property in 2005 out of foreclosure. Coupled with back taxes it paid, Diversified paid $2.1 million.

Bruce Stern, vice president of business development for Diversified Capital, said their firm had other offers on the building, but they were too low. One offer came from a local oil and gas company.

JPS board members will now decide how to use the property, said JPS interim Chief Executive Robert Earley.

Initial plans are to leave a parking garage, but tear down the 12-story building, he said. An asbestos abatement will need to be done before the building can come down.

SANDRA BAKER, (817) 390-7727