Mercy Hospital says it will leave prime land undeveloped
By Risa Polansky
Mercy Hospital land once slated for luxury condos is to remain vacant — and off the market.
No condos. No assisted living facility. And no land sale in the foreseeable future.
"We have no intentions of putting the land on the market," said new Mercy President and CEO John C. Johnson.
Instead, the hospital is to hang onto the parcel, which was to yield $96 million until a pending deal died this month.
Officials "see it [the land] as a strategic long-term asset for the hospital and its growth," Mr. Johnson said.
For years, Ocean Land Investments and developer The Related Group were set to buy the 6.7 acres as a site for upscale condo towers.
A lawsuit followed as neighbors protested Miami commissioners' vote to rezone the land.
Two court defeats preceded the recent announcement that the deal was kaput.
Former Mercy head John Matuska said in 2006 that the land sale would cover about a third of the cost of necessary, large-scale hospital renovations.
After one of the legal losses this year, he called the land "an asset that we want to eventually convert into cash so we can continue to modernize the hospital."
Had the condo concept been killed in court, Mr. Matuska called an assisted living facility a possibility for the site.
New CEO Mr. Johnson, who began in August, acknowledged that Mercy has capital needs but said he plans to fund short-term projects, like new suites, through donations.
The land wasn't previously for sale — "it's just somebody made an offer that couldn't be turned down," he said — and the $96 million was never part of the hospital's budget.
"It's not something that needs to be made up some other way."
Though the hospital announced the land sale was off, the developer made the call, Mr. Johnson said. "They didn't want to go forward."
The Related Group did not return calls.