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Inside the abandoned hospital that will house low-income seniors

Mark Parker



The former Edward White Hospital will soon become affordable housing. St. Petersburg's Housing Authority must first remove its seemingly frozen-in-time remnants. Photos by Mark Parker.

An abandoned hospital in St. Petersburg resembles a set piece from an apocalyptic television series. It will soon become a vibrant affordable housing development for low-income seniors.

The St. Petersburg Housing Authority has long seen the former Edward White Hospital’s potential. Officials hope to commence its ambitious transformation in September.

The 121,000-square-foot facility’s exterior shows its age. Motorists passing the site at 2323 9th Ave N. see overgrown parking lots and tarped construction fencing, but the outer structure will mostly remain unchanged.

The real work lies behind the hospital’s doors, which have rarely opened since 2014. The 162-bed hospital will soon provide 71 apartments and office space; current visitors include raccoons and adventure-seeking teenagers.

The hospital closed in 2014.

A recent private tour was Robert Anderson’s first. He became SPHA’s new construction inspector and project manager three days prior and is eager to begin what is likely St. Petersburg’s most unique and challenging adaptive reuse project in city history.

“It’s going to be an experience,” Anderson said with a laugh. “But it will be good.”

Ed White Hospital opened in 1976. Its namesake became the first American to walk in space in June 1965 and was then named senior pilot of the first Apollo mission.

Edward H. White II died in January 1967, when Apollo 1 caught fire during pre-launch testing at Cape Canaveral. Nick Fokianos, director of communications for SPHA, said White had family that lived in St. Petersburg.

White’s family approved of the agency using his name. SPHA officials will incorporate it into the redevelopment’s moniker.

Carolyn Avington, chief financial officer, said an artist will restore a sun-faded plaque honoring the space pioneer. She said the family also offered to provide some personal mementos for display in the redevelopment.

Hospital staff signed this mural before their last day.

HCA West Florida shuttered the six-story building nearly a decade ago due to declining admissions and revenues. Several nurses signed a lobby mural with their names and dates of tenure.

The first few floors remain full of diagnostic imaging machines, computers, random medical equipment, wood cabinets and metal racks. A stainless-steel surgical scrubbing sink outside of an operating room, Avington noted, could make a good addition to someone’s garage.

Avington said St. Petersburg-based Lema Construction, the lead contractor, will dispose of the inoperable medical equipment. SPHA will completely gut the building’s interior, much of which has succumbed to mold and vermin.

Ground-floor rooms will become the housing authority’s new headquarters. Evara Health will convert the remaining space into offices and a clinic open to new residents.

Ground floor rooms will become new office space.

SPHA will dedicate nearly 18,000 square feet to its new administrative offices. Avington said the centralized location – in the city’s North Kenwood neighborhood – will benefit employees and residents.

She said the agency’s current headquarters is about a 15-minute walk from the nearest bus stop, with no sidewalks. Avington added that standing water along the route can reach someone’s knees during heavy rains.

“Here, we have a covered bus stop in front, and it’s going to be so accessible,” she explained. “We did a map of just our Section 8 (housing voucher) participants – because Section 8 is moving here – and I think about 2,500 people actually pass Ed White to go to our central office. We only have about 3,400 in our program.”

The project will provide 60 one-bedroom, seven studio and four two-bedroom units. Each will have a kitchen. Most of the former hospital rooms have plumbing, which Anderson plans to use to his benefit.

He said the fire prevention sprinkler lines would likely remain throughout the redevelopment, as will several elevators. Anderson also appreciated that former owners, either Sight Real Estate or local developer Grady Pridgen, began gutting the second floor.

“There’s always the possibility of opening a can of worms, but … I don’t see any issues,” a confident Anderson concluded. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Several diagnostic imaging machines remain in exam rooms.

The property is adjacent to Booker Creek Park. Residents will enter from that side, near pickleball and basketball courts, a playground and walking trails. The apartments will have lakeside or downtown views.

The first-floor lobby will transform into an open dining room with a catering kitchen. SPHA will also provide a community room, computer lab and fitness center.

Avington said the agency would refresh the exterior with new energy-efficient windows, doors, paint and landscaping. The building’s signature river rock accents will feature prominently in the new facility.

The new units will have views of the adjacent lake or downtown St. Petersburg. The river rock (right) will remain.

SPHA purchased the property for $5.1 million from Pridgen in December 2021. The agency has since secured several millions of dollars in project funding. Avington expressed gratitude for “excellent relationships” with St. Petersburg and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor recently requested $5.34 million in additional Community Project Funding for Ed White’s transformation. “I’m happy that it’s finally going to happen,” Avington said succinctly.

“I’ve put a lot of time into looking for money to do it,” she added. “Just a lot of time, money and heart that I’ve put into this particular project. I’m excited to see it be where it is.”

A rendering of the completed project’s proposed housing entrance. Image provided.

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  1. Avatar

    Elizabeth M Rugg

    June 13, 2024at12:30 pm

    I’m so glad Ed White Hospital is being converted to housing. It’s languished for far too long and low-income housing is such a great use for it!

    Can’t wait to be invited to the grand tour to see what you’ve done!

  2. Avatar


    June 11, 2024at5:18 pm

    What happened to the chapel? There was a stain glass appearing tree of life. The welcome small quiet room I believe was a gift from radiologist Dr Price? donated? Not sure but I would like to know how it faired the closure. Wonderful staff in OR, Day Services, XR and Scan personnel. White’s astronaut suit was on a manikin in a glass case as I recall. How can we find out what happened to some treasures that were inside this lovely hospital. I recall how we lost ++ staff that went to Ed White when it opened.

  3. Avatar

    louise kahle

    June 9, 2024at5:21 am

    it was a wonderful hospital. kind staff. i loved it there when i went a few times to the ER.

  4. Avatar

    Hank Goettelman

    June 8, 2024at7:35 pm

    I worked security there before it was shuttered for good.
    There were several floors totally covered in black mold that we were told to not even enter.
    That and the basement flooded badly every time it rained.
    It was a total health hazard.

  5. Avatar

    Stefi Adler

    June 8, 2024at4:42 pm

    How can I apply?

  6. Avatar


    June 8, 2024at4:11 pm

    About time they put it to good use!

  7. Avatar

    Dee Moulton

    June 8, 2024at3:49 pm

    Where does someone apply for an apt that already has a voucher?

  8. Avatar

    Cynthia Sweeney

    June 8, 2024at3:25 pm

    Great use of this property!
    I hope asbestos is removed and disposed of properly.

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