COVID-19 in Philly: City ends Hahnemann negotiations, will look for other sites

Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia (Image via Flickr Commons)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney ended negotiations to rent the shuttered Hahnemann Hospital, saying city officials will find other facility owners “who are ready and willing to step up to work with us and to do what’s best for all Philadelphians.”

The city will look at other facilities that could serve as field hospitals, or quarantine and isolation space.

Kenney said negotiations for the former Center City hospital were dragging on too long with owner Joel Freedman.

“In the midst of a public health crisis with the numbers of positive cases increasing daily, we simply do not have the time to continue on a lengthy negotiation,” Kenney said during his administration’s daily news briefings on the coronavirus.

After city officials rejected the owner’s proposal for the city to buy the facility, Kenney said the city offered to rent the facility for a “nominal amount” and pay for general upkeep and expenses, which would total hundreds of thousands a month.

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“This work would lead to improvements in the facility making it more marketable for the owner in the future to sell it, yet the owner would not agree to our offer,” the mayor said.

Kenney said that Freedman, who heads Broad Street Healthcare Properties, which now controls the property, wanted $400,000 a month in rent and asked the city to pay for improvements and expenses, which would total $1 million a month.

A spokesman for Broad Street Healthcare Properties said in a released statement that the owner was ready to restart talks.

“We appreciate and applaud the City’s efforts to address the health crisis quickly,” the statement read. “We understand that the City doesn’t feel that the Hahnemann building currently fits their urgent needs as a quarantine site. Should the situation change we stand ready to reengage in discussions on how the City or the State can best use the facility.”

Kenney said his administration explored seizing the property through eminent domain, but that would be a lengthy process and require the city to purchase the facility for fair market value.

“We don’t have the need to own it, nor the resources to buy it,” Kenney said. “So we are done and we are moving on.”

The city was actively negotiating with five or six other facility owners, mostly hotels, to rent out about 800 rooms, City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.