The old General Hospital in Boyle Heights boasts a commanding hilltop home with about a million-square feet of space, a central location near freeways and an iconic Moderne-style facade instantly recognizable to millions of “General Hospital” soap opera fans. But the 19-floor hospital built in 1933 has remained virtually empty since a new, 600-bed replacement hospital opened next door in late 2008. Some have suggested that the Depression-era complex could be turned into everything from housing to an indoor mall to a cultural center. However, Los Angeles County, which owns the building, has faced a few setbacks to fill up the building and adjacent grounds – even with offers of free rent.
Nearly 18 months ago, for example, the office of County Supervisor Gloria Molina announced it was pursing plans to create a nearly 114,000-square-foot biotechnology incubator for start-up firms on the second floor of the hospital. The incubator, operated by Momentum L.A., would be operated under a 10-year-long, free lease. But an official affiliated with Momentum L.A. recently told The Eastsider that “There is no news just yet.”
Meanwhile, the county had also been negotiating with the Los Angeles Community College District to build a Health Career Academy on surplus hospital property that the county would lease at no charge. But, in August, the county ended the discussions after the college district had failed to raise the necessary funds.
County officials have not given up on General Hospital. In the most recent effort to find tenants, the county has proposed turning the hospital’s first floor – which includes an auditorium, meeting space, kitchens and cafeteria – into a wellness center leased free of charge to nonprofits. A request for proposals describes The Wellness Center Project:
Together, we intend to honor the history of “healing” at the Historic General Hospital by utilizing the first floor of the former hospital – and eventually its upper
19 floors ‐ as a common space area where like‐minded nonprofits can coordinate wellness programming, share knowledge and best practices and strengthen collaborative efforts to combat epidemic levels of obesity, stroke, hypertension, cancer and other long term chronic diseases for the East Los Angeles community and Medical Center patients.
The proposed wellness center seems to have generated a lot of interest. Nearly 30 tenants submitted proposals by the Oct. 1 deadline, said Roxane Marquez, a spokeswoman for Molina’ office. It’s not clear how much it will cost to make an needed improvements since tenants have not been selected, Marquez said. “We are in the middle of vetting everybody and figuring out who will ultimately get to use that space.”