Adventist Health Bakersfield has purchased a vacant lot near Brimhall and Coffee roads at a site the organization's former president said in 2018 would be developed into a hospital to help alleviate congestion at its downtown medical center on Chester Avenue.
County records show Adventist paid a little more than $11 million for the property in late December. Measuring more than three dozen acres, the lot is located just east of a much larger property set aside for the long-delayed Bakersfield Commons mixed-use real estate development project.
Sharlet Briggs, who served as president and CEO of Adventist Health Bakersfield until her departure last summer, announced in September 2018 construction would begin in 2021 and that the hospital would open in 2024.
But the status of the hospital proposal was unclear Tuesday. Adventist declined Monday to comment on the transaction, and so did a representative of the company behind the Commons project, South Gate-based World Oil Corp., whose principals sold Adventist the property at Brimhall and Coffee.
A spokesman for the city of Bakersfield also declined to comment on the potential hospital project, though he did say by email city staff continue to provide support for the Commons project "and is prepared to process permits when the applicant(s) are ready to submit them."
Bakersfield has just one hospital west of Highway 99: Mercy Southwest. It has been pushed to capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital project Briggs proposed in 2018 was originally intended to be part of the Commons project. She said at the time it would have fewer than 254 beds and that it would be up to her staff what medical specialties would be available at the proposed hospital.
“We keep looking at how can we better serve the community so that next patient who walks into the hospital has a bed ready for them,” she said in September 2018. “This has been on our radar for a long time, and now we’ve gotten approval to move forward.”
Adventist already owns three hospitals in Kern, one each in Bakersfield, Delano and Tehachapi.
Whether Roseville-based Adventist would move forward independently of the Commons project remains unclear.
The Commons proposal has changed several times since it was first unveiled more than a decade ago. The latest official word on the project, from an October 2017 news release issued by World Oil and its development partner Trammell Crow Co., said the 260-acre development would include office, retail, residential, recreational and industrial space, plus a 200-bed hospital and a wellness campus.
Construction on the Commons was supposed to begin in 2018 but still has not started. Several individuals involved with the project did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.