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Wichita General Hospital Building to be Demolished

A Wichita Falls landmark to which many generations of Texomans have ties will become just another memory, and possibly a future parking lot.
    City and county officials say they've tried their best to sell the old Wichita General Hospital building, but say they have exhausted every avenue.
    They say when they weren't able to find a buyer for the 8th St. property, the city looked at renovating the building and making it into a city hall or police station.
    But, they say for this building, parts of which are close to a hundred years old, those renovations would be too costly and they don't want to place that burden on the taxpayers.
    City Manager Darron Leiker says, "For the last 18 months, the city-county hospital board and a realtor tried to market that facility."
    Mayor Glenn Barham says, "We've had efforts to get a veteran's hospital in there, but the Veteran's Ddministration has said no on numerous occasions. There's been efforts to try to get a veteran's home in a portion of the building, and those folks have said no."
    The city did have one prospective buyer who wanted to turn the old hospital into a nursing home facility, but that agreement fell through.
    "In the agreement with him, he was given 120 days to do that diligence," Barham says.  "In the course of that 120 days, he came to the conclusion he would not be able to do the project because of requirements the state health department was placing upon him."
    "That was essentially the only offer that we had," Leiker says.
    City councilors have voted to turn the building over to the City-County Hospital Board.
    City Attorney Miles Risley believes the board will approve the demolition of the building.
    "That land, that area, may be more valuable without the building as vacant land, and we want to pursue that and hopefully get that property back on the tax rolls at some point in the future," Leiker says.
    Officials say it will be at least a couple years before the building is demolished.
    They also say United Regional Health Care Systems will try to find a use for the old parking garage.
    Leiker says the land the Wichita General building sits on is one of the lots maintained by city crews, so tearing down the building will also save the city thousands of dollars in maintenance and upkeep expenses.
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