Excela to raze old hospital in Jeannette

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Excela Health of Greensburg says it will demolish the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital this spring, clearing the property in the city for sale and redevelopment.

“This is solely a voluntary initiative,” said city solicitor Scott Avolio. The announcement that was made Monday at Jeannette City Council’s agenda meeting.

The structure at 600 Jefferson Ave., which was built in 1959, has been vacant since 2011. At that time, the health system transitioned the remaining outpatient services from the campus to Excela Square at Norwin as part of the health system's 72,000-square-foot expansion of its North Huntingdon outpatient facility.

“Because we know the community helped to build the hospital, we have been diligently searching for a new use for the complex for more than two years. But we’ve had no success,” said Excela CEO Robert Rogalski. “When Excela ceased operations in the building we pledged to Jeannette that we would not allow the unoccupied structure to become a blight on the neighborhood from disuse.

"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,'' Mr. Rogalski said.

Jeannette Hospital nearly closed in 2007, when UPMC acquired Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, but not the facility. Following discussions involving the boards and leadership of Catholic Health East and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Excela purchased the hospital later that year. At that time, the facility became a campus of Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg.

In 2010, Excela ended inpatient admissions at the facility as acute care became fully integrated at the Westmoreland site in Greensburg. Since then, it has been trying to find a buyer for the hospital. 

"The most important thing right now is to have the building demolished and developed into usable property,” Mr. Avolio said.

Mayor Richard Jacobelli said he welcomed the announcement.

“I fully understand the reasons for this decision and know it was made with careful deliberation,” Mr. Jacobelli said. “Excela 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.”

Jeannette’s community development plan calls for the property to be utilized, ideally as a for-profit assisted-living community that could provide a much-needed service to the community while also contributing to the city’s tax base.

“Excela shares the city’s desire to identify a new use for the property,” Mr. Rogalski said. “We will continue to work with city leaders to explore options that not only meet the long-term health care needs of the community but contribute to the city's financial health.''

According to Mr. Avolio, Excela is hoping to draw a for-profit assisted-living facility to the site. In the interim, Mr. Avolio said the property will maintain its nonprofit status.

"We definitely would like to see the property put back on the tax rolls," he said.

Linda Metz, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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