Baptist secures final parcel necessary for new cancer center

Baptist secures final parcel necessary for new cancer center
The warehouse at 1316 San Marco Boulevard has been purchased by Baptist Health Properties Inc.

When Baptist Health Properties Inc. purchased the warehouse at 1316 San Marco Boulevard, it acquired the final piece of the real-estate puzzle that will enable it to build a new state-of-the-art facility for its MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On Feb. 12, Baptist closed on the property across from Kitchen on San Marco and its own Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute Feb. 12, said Cord Butler of The Cordell Group, who handled the sale. Previously owned by Gladys N. Cacerio, the property had been on and off the market since 2006, said Butler.

The 10,350 square-foot warehouse sits on slightly less than half an acre, Butler said. The parcel is the last corner of a patchwork quilt of properties Baptist has acquired over two city blocks bordered by Gary Street, Palm Avenue, Children’s Way and San Marco Boulevard.

On April 17, 2015, Baptist Health signed a partnership agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in order to transform oncology care in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. Six months later, on Oct. 17, 2015, Baptist Health opened the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in what was formerly Baptist’s Outpatient Center on San Marco Boulevard. The center is a one-stop shop for cancer care providing patients and their families services in medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, pathology, laboratory, diagnostic imaging, infusion and other support clinical services under one roof.

At the end of an Oct. 17 press conference to officially open the new cancer center, Baptist Health CEO Hugh Greene said Baptist had purchased most of the land comprising two city blocks across the street on San Marco Boulevard. At that time, only the warehouse was not under Baptist Health’s control.

Plans for the new facility are currently in the permitting and design phase. Once the proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) is approved by the city, construction is expected to begin soon after, perhaps as early as this summer. The anticipated opening of the new building is slated for early 2018, Greene said at the October press conference.

In April 2015, Baptist bulldozed more than one bungalow along Palm Avenue and Children’s Way, and purchased the Dante Place home of Betty Benfield, which was taken down early last summer.

In January, Baptist moved its Premier Open MRI facility to the duPont Center, a building it recently acquired on the Southbank near The District – Life Well Lived – Jacksonville.

Also in January, Nemours’ Board granted an easement on land behind its bulkhead to the city.  City officials have been negotiating with Baptist about including a multi-use pedestrian-bicycle path within the PUD, which will become part of a bike-friendly loop through north San Marco. The easement will provide a safe access to a multi-use bicycle-pedestrian bridge the Florida Department of Transportation plans to build spanning the St. Johns River adjacent to the Fuller Warren Bridge. It could also connect the bicycle-pedestrian path alongside the Baptist property facing Children’s Way and Nira Street to the railroad tracks and subsequently over to The District – Life Well Lived – Jacksonville and the Southbank Riverwalk, said San Marco Preservation Society President Andrew Dickson, who has had a peek at the PUD application.

Baptist’s proposed PUD is an expansion of the existing Planned Unit Development and calls for an additional 5.5 acres, which will include a soon-to-be-built cancer hospital on the west side of San Marco Boulevard, said Nicole Thomas, Senior Vice President of Specialty Services for Baptist Health. The design of the new building is currently underway, she said.

The new structure will be a comprehensive cancer treatment center that includes medical offices, laboratories, clinics, research and support services, infusion treatment, integrative care, diagnostic imaging, radiation oncology, pathology, pharmacy, and may also include urgent care for patients, Thomas said.

“The exact square footage of the new cancer center is still to be evaluated,” Thomas said. “However, as is consistent with the surrounding development, the maximum height of the building will be up to 12 stories.”

While the PUD calls for total development of 705,000 square feet, this includes 200,000 square feet of existing space for the current Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Reid Medical Office Building, she said, adding that the size of the new building is still being determined.

“We are hopeful we will be able to start construction on this leading-edge cancer facility this summer,” Thomas said. “We are committed to integrating with and enhancing the special character of the surrounding San Marco community.”

San Marco Preservation Society member Mary Toomey, Dickson and SMPS President-elect LeAnna Cumber had the opportunity to sit down with Baptist officials to discuss the development. So far, they like what they see, said Toomey, adding no one at SMPS has had time to thoroughly study the daunting 528-page document.

Of concern to San Marco Preservation Society members is parking, building aesthetics and the creation of a leafy streetscape on Nira Street, said Dickson, noting in the plans is an additional parking garage on the east side of the existing MD Anderson Cancer Center and Orthopedics Institute, facing Nira Street. Included on the hospital campus on the west side of San Marco will be at least one parking structure, said Toomey. The Preservation Society plans to schedule a public meeting to discuss the PUD in late March or early April, she said.

“Baptist has always been a good corporate citizen. I always feel Baptist makes an effort to make their buildings aesthetically pleasing, and we believe this project will follow their history,” Toomey said. “The hospital is a great asset for the city of Jacksonville,” she said. “San Marco Preservation Society will review the PUD and make sure that it fits into the neighborhood. It’s part of San Marco, and we want to make sure if fits into our community.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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