Mayor says city will benefit from hospital land swap
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The appraised values of the parcels involved indicates that Escambia County Healthcare Authority got the better end of its March 2020 land swap with the City of Atmore. But Mayor Jim Staff said the city would also come out a winner in the long run.
According to appraisals conducted by Fairhope-based Alan Associates, the 10-acre tract of Rivercane land ECHCA received in the deal is valued at $155,000 ($15,500 per acre). Ground has been broken for a new urgent care facility on the acreage, located along Alabama 21 and near Interstate 65, and a new hospital will eventually be built there.
The land the city received in exchange, an 8.83-acre section located behind the current site of Atmore Community Hospital and including the “grassy area by the driveway” that provides access from Medical Park Drive, is valued at $104,239 (roughly $11,805 per acre), leaving the city with an apparent shortfall of $50,761.
The appraisal report notes that the acreage, which is currently zoned R-1 (single family residential) could increase in value if the city were to amend that zoning.
“Based on the hypothetical condition that the subject property could be rezoned for commercial, retail, medical or general business activities, the estimated market value … would be $126,500,” wrote Appraiser Steven Pharr. That’s still $28,500 less than the current value of the Rivercane land.
But Staff said the location of the new hospital will create several long-term benefits for the city.
“When they get the hospital going, we’ve got another motel and another restaurant that have already expressed interest in coming here,” the mayor said this week, hinting that a big-box grocery company and a national pharmacy chain have also expressed interest in locating at Rivercane once the medical center is built. “Those and any other new businesses that build out near the hospital will create jobs, new sales taxes and new property taxes.”
Staff pointed out that construction of the hospital would also create another long-term benefit.
“It’s going to make that property to the south (of the hospital site) worth a whole lot more money, too,” he said.
The current hospital building was not included in the land swap. Jason Daniel, ECHCA’s director of public affairs and marketing, said this week he “doesn’t think” the authority has decided yet what it will do with the venerable structure.
During the early stages of negotiation with the city, authority officials mentioned repurposing the building as an apartment complex and tearing it down to create a greenspace as options.