Like a whale upon the sand, awesome yet helpless, the majestic Pacific Medical Center that crowns Beacon Hill is desperate to find a tenant willing to call this strikingly handsome art deco-style structure home. Born as a 312-bed Marine Corps hospital in 1933, the PacMed building has languished, a near-empty vessel, since Amazon.com packed up its laptops almost two years ago. The sixteen-story tower is closed, its massive glass-plated entry doors locked. A visitor gazing in will see only dark, empty corridors, the floors and walls still shimmering in brown and white marble. The only occupants here now are the two dozen-plus medical staff who operate the PacMed Clinic.
Indeed, the iconic landmark, with its breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, is but a ghost of its former self. Not only did it take a beating during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, which caused damage to 80 percent of its perimeter walls, but stories still abound that the place is rife with supernatural activity. There are reports, in fact, of a dead nurse that roams the hallways, and of janitors who worked on the sixth floor, a former mental ward, who fled their jobs in terror after seeing things levitate off desks.
The future of the building, a designated city landmark since 1992, is up in the air, and has been since last summer when Seattle developer Wright Runstad, which in 1998 borrowed $23 million to convert the building into office space and subleased 13 floors to Amazon, defaulted on the loan. Since October, the quasi-public Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority — who in ‘98 signed a 99-year lease with Runstad — has been working hard to find a large tenant.
Two intriguing possibilities have surfaced in recent days. First, Seattle Central Community College is mulling over the possibility of leasing about half of the Pacific Tower, and has proposed remodeling up to 106,000 square feet of the building to house it Allied Health Programs, such as dental hygiene, nursing, and respiratory care.
“We think it’s a really innovative proposal,” Rosemary Aragon, executive director of the Pacific Hospital Preservation & Development Authority (PDA), told Seattle Weekly.
The college is looking to win state support. The Seattle Times reported yesterday that, “a 2013-15 capital budget approved by a state House committee earlier this month allocates $20 million for preparing the Pacific Tower for ‘community college health career training programs, offices for the department of commerce or other appropriate state agencies, and other nonprofit community uses.’”
The House measure authorizes the state to sign a 30-year lease, including “an option to buy the property, if available,” with the PDA.
“We’re still waiting on the state right now. The ball is in their court,” said Aragon.
Meanwhile, Mark Secord, CEO of Neighborcare Health, the largest operator of community health centers in Seattle, has talked with Aragon and PDA board members that a developer has proposed converting the building to apartments.
“It’s been represented to us that it’s a firm proposal, so the risk here is that they might opt for that given that it is something that is concrete,” Secord told The Times.