Updated: April 4, 2014 at 7:29 am
The former St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, which began nearly 130 years ago as a one-story building and grew to become a vital part of the city's health care system, has been sold to a limited liability company set up by the Springs' largest real estate firm.
The deal might signal the start of a major redevelopment effort east of downtown: The former Gazette building directly across the street from the hospital also is under contract, though the buyer has not been identified.
The hospital's land and buildings at Pikes Peak Avenue and Prospect Street was purchased Feb. 3 by 825 East Pikes Peak LLC, a company formed by Nor'wood Development Group, according to El Paso County land records. The cost: Just $50,000, records show. The El Paso County Assessor's Office has assigned a market value of about $2.5 million to the St. Francis property.
Denver-based Centura Health, St. Francis' parent company, confirmed the sale. But Centura spokesman Johnny Rea declined to identify the buyer, why the price was a fraction of the property's market value or other details. That prohibition against discussing the deal was part of the sale contract - although Rea said he couldn't discuss why.
"We cannot discuss details of the transaction at this time," Rea said.
Land records show that 825 East Pikes Peak LLC's downtown address is the same as that of Nor'wood, and a sale document recorded by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office includes the name of Nor'wood president Chris Jenkins. It's unclear what will happen to the St. Francis property; Jenkins didn't return several calls.
Meanwhile, the former Gazette building and property at 30 S. Prospect St. is under contract to a developer/speculator, said Marty Johnson of real estate firm CBRE, who's marketing the site. The Gazette vacated the property when it moved its offices downtown in December.
Johnson declined to identify the buyer of The Gazette property and whether it's someone local. The deal is scheduled to be completed in about six weeks, he said.
Several potential buyers looked at The Gazette site, such as developers that included "usual suspects" in town and others that wanted to occupy the property, such as schools, Johnson said.
"We had plenty of activity and plenty of people look at it and several offers," he said. "We negotiated with the highest bidder and got it done, got it under contract."
The St. Francis property that's been sold covers nearly 9 acres on a site that's a little more than a city block, according to land records. It includes the original, red-brick St. Francis building and two multistory additions constructed in later years. The sale also includes a parking lot to the south and a building on the property's southeast corner. The deal doesn't include a single-family home on the northeast corner.
St. Francis Hospital was started in 1887 and expanded several times over the next century. St. Francis merged with Penrose Hospital in 1989, creating Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. St. Francis stopped treating trauma patients five years later, but did house mentally ill patients until 2010.
Centura announced in 2010 that it planned to close St. Francis as part of a cost-savings move. Centura also sold its former Penrose Community Hospital on North Academy Boulevard, while building and opening the St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road on the Springs' northeast side in 2008.