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Caltech to Buy Vacant Hospital

The university plans to use St. Luke Medical Center as a research facility.

May 10, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

The California Institute of Technology has announced it will buy St. Luke Medical Center in northeast Pasadena, which closed last year, and use the space for research.

The hospital, opened in 1933 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, will be used for work in fields such as astronomy that requires space the main campus struggles to provide, said Al Horvath, Caltech's vice president for business and finance.

Neither Caltech nor the seller, Tenet Healthcare Corp., would disclose details of the sale, but officials said they expect it to be finalized in late June.

Tenet, the second-largest, for-profit hospital operator in the country, acquired the property in 1997 but closed it last April because of the hospital's financial troubles, the difficulty of retrofitting the historic structure with modern hospital technology and competition from nearby medical facilities.

Some residents opposed the closure because it left Pasadena with fewer options for emergency care. But St. Luke officials and others argued there were five more hospitals within an eight-mile radius.

Tenet officials said they searched for a buyer that would preserve the architectural integrity of the buildings.

The main building, with its Spanish-style dome, and two smaller structures once used as a chapel and convent, have been designated historic buildings by the city of Pasadena, Horvath said. The grounds have manicured lawns, terrazzo floors and elaborate stairways.

"We would not be able to take those buildings down or change the exterior," Horvath said. "When we first started looking at the property, they basically told us, 'The main hospital building is going to be historic, so you need to think about that.' "

The first team of researchers will move into the building within six months to a year, he said.

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