Big changes coming to Community Hospital
NEW PORT RICHEY - Community Hospital of New Port Richey first opened its doors in 1971, but on its 40th anniversary, the venerable institution soon will see its biggest changes. Tagged for the wrecking ball several years ago, the hospital will escape demolition after staff members pack their bags and move to Medical Center of Trinity. The transition to the new hospital on State Road 54 near Little Road could begin within several weeks. Chief executive officer Leigh Massengill and other administrators decided in January to keep an emergency room and some behavioral health services at the Community Hospital site on Marine Parkway.Perhaps half of Community Hospital's roughly 400,000 square feet, however, will sit vacant after the move, said New Port Richey City Manager John Schneiger. Community Hospital has been "25 acres in the heart of the city, so it's an important piece of property for the city," he said. What to do with that leftover space has occupied the attention of New Port Richey and Pasco County officials and hospital administrators. They say Community Hospital will leave behind some big economic shoes to fill after it moves to Trinity. The hospital has generated a large chunk of the city's property tax revenue, Schneiger said. It also long has been one of Pasco's biggest employers, as well as generating tax revenue for the county and school district. Last year, Community Hospital treated 76,113 patients, admitted 14,423 and registered 38,555 emergency visits, Massengill said. The Marine Parkway site, however, has little elbow room to offer. A number of buildings have been constructed around it over the years, including medical offices. Richard Gehring, the county's growth management administrator, wonders whether those offices will remain there or move into the medical office building at the Medical Center of Trinity complex. It's hard to predict the future of the Community Hospital site and its ecosystem until the move to Trinity is completed, Gehring said at a recent workshop on county redevelopment plans. The office space market also remains soft because of the sour economy and high unemployment. Still, officials see huge long-term economic potential in the medical field. Gehring and his staff have been drawing up multiyear plans in a bid to reshape the west Pasco coastal area; job diversity is a priority. "I think we've had some promising conversations with them about the future," Schneiger said of Community Hospital executives. "We've just tried to work with them on viable ways to redevelop that property or finding another use."