New Owner, Same Plans – QNS.com

New Owner, Same Plans

Former St. John’s Hospital Flipped For $47M

The former St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst has been sold once again.

According to a report published in Crain’s New York last Thursday, Jan. 2, the defunct medical center located at 90-02 Queens Blvd.-which treated its last patient in February 2009-was sold to “a group of Asiabased investors led by” developer Steven Wu.

Massey Knakal Realty Services, which handled the transaction, formally announced on Tuesday, Jan. 7, the deal was worth $47 million and includes the purchase of a five-story parking garage previously used by St. John’s Hospital located at the corner of Hoffman Drive and 58th Avenue.

The previous owner of the hospital-a holding company known as 89-52 Queens LLC, which had Jack Gutman as its primary owner- made a substantial profit on the sale. The holding company had purchased the property for less than $20 million from Caritas Health Care in 2009 during bankruptcy proceedings.

Wu and his investors reportedly plan to transform the former medical center into primarily rental housing, with medical officers and retail spaces on the lower and ground floors. Crain’s New York indicated the consortium “plans to spend as much as $45 million” toward that effort.

For years, the holding company had been performing renovations within the defunct hospital with a similar goal of transforming the site into mixed-use development. In July, as previously reported, the real estate brokerage firm Massey-Knakal advertised the hospital and parking garage as being available for $55 million.

According to Massey Knakal, the former hospital “has been gutted to the steel and concrete and all windows in the building have been replaced.”

“There are approved BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals) plans to convert the property to a mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor and lower level, medical facilities on the second floor and residential on the remaining floors,” as noted in the Massey Knakal press release issued Tuesday.

The former hospital encompasses 266,322 sq. ft., while the parking garage has approximately 290 spaces.

At the time, representatives of the holding company told the Times Newsweekly they “would listen” to any offers, but nevertheless, their project was moving forward.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm, in a phone interview with this paper Tuesday morning, stated his hope the new owners would carry out a verbal commitment made by the previous owners to provide space for a medical facility and a supermarket within the former hospital campus. Both are sorely needed in the community, he noted.

Dromm blasted the former owners for allowing the site to be vacant for so long before ultimately agreeing to sell it.

“For over four years, the building has been vacant and work was very slow,” he said. “It was not beneficial to the community to be put on hold for such a long time. I would hope the new owners would be more community-oriented and would reach out to us to let us know what their intentions are.”

In July, representatives of the holding company that previously owned St. John’s claimed a number of bureaucratic hurdles fell in their way while redeveloping the former hospital. Dromm questioned whether those claims were legitimate, noting “they didn’t complain directly to us” about any such problems.

“Meanwhile, the community has been at a loss for a hospital and had a huge, vacant building not being used-and having no idea of what the future holds for it because of the uncooperative attitudes these developers took,” Dromm added. “We hope the new owners will be better than the last.”

Christian Cassagnol, district manager of Queens Community Board 4, told the Times Newsweekly he hoped the new owners of the former St. John’s Hospital would meet with the advisory body regarding their plans for the site. However, since variances for work within the structure have already been approved, it is unlikely that the new ownership would be required to meet with the board about the project.

St. John’s Hospital closed in February 2009 after serving Elmhurst and surrounding communities for over 100 years. In its final years, financial troubles doomed the facility and Caritas Health Care, which took over operation of the hospital from St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers.

The facility is close to the Woodhaven Boulevard stop on the E, F, M and R subway lines; adjacent to the Long Island Expressway; and across the street from the Queens Center Mall.

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