County to close former Puget Sound Hospital

Pierce County is preparing to close the former Puget Sound Hospital in Tacoma as part of a plan to merge two departments and save money.

The hospital, which was built in phases in 1926 and 1951, has provided psychiatric services, general medical care and served as a polio ward decades ago. The three-building complex ceased being used for medical care last year when the state shifted control of mental health services to a private company. The 66,000-square-foot hospital is currently being used as office space for dozens of employees of the Pierce County Department of Human Services. Those employees will move to 27,000 square feet of leased space in late 2010 or early 2011 as part of the department’s merger with the Department of Community Services.

It costs the county $30 per square foot to operate the hospital complex, particularly because the boilers must be staffed around-the-clock. The six-year lease for the new office space on Tacoma Avenue South will cost the county $17 per square foot. The County estimates the move will save $4 million during that six-year period.

Pierce County Council adopted an ordinance in July that authorized the County Executive to enter the lease. As for the future of the hospital complex on Pacific Avenue, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy anticipates recommending that the County Council place the facility in surplus, which would clear the way for its sale. She noted that her staff has been in contact with the City of Tacoma to make sure that economic development offices are prepared to market it. “The real value in that property is the land,” the County Executive said. “It’s a large piece of property, located near Interstate 5 and on the bus line, with views of downtown and the water. The site has great potential for development.”