UPMC finalizes purchase of former Quaker State Innovation Center
The Derrick,
1/18/02 By JUDITH O. ETZEL


A special thanks goes out to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted


UPMC Northwest, poised to begin construction of a $65 million hospital in Cranberry Township, has completed the purchase of another nearby property tagged as part of the new sprawling health system in Venango County.

The former Quaker State Innovation Center, empty since March 1999, now belongs to the Pittsburgh-based health giant. The 38,000-square-foot brick building, along with a warehouse and 11-acre parcel of land along Route 257, have been on the market for nearly two years. Operations ceased there shortly after the merged Pennzoil-Quaker State shut down refinery and packaging operations here.

The acquisition, though, does spell a significant change in UPMC Northwest's presence in Oil City. The Rowe Building, a low-slung brick facility built as the Oil City School of Nursing years ago and located adjacent to the main Oil City hospital building, will not be used once the new hospital is built in Cranberry Township.

Hospital officials have maintained since the UPMC Northwest merger was announced more than two years ago that the main hospital buildings in Oil City and Franklin would be closed once the new facility opened in Cranberry Township. That opening is now set for mid-2004.

Once the current hospital buildings are closed, economic development agencies in concert with UPMC Northwest have one year to sell them or they will be demolished.

Both communities, though, also have hospital-associated buildings outside of their main health centers, and they were pegged as possibly remaining as UPMC Northwest adjunct buildings. They are the West Unit in Franklin and the Rowe Building. In November, Northwest CEO Neil Todhunter said the hospital was still trying to determine what services might go to those two sites.

Hospital officials now say the Rowe Building, tentatively targeted to house some of UPMC Northwest's non-medical departments, will not be retained. The facility now houses administrative and support services as well as the psychiatric and behavioral science departments.

In the new configuration, the administrative and support services will go to the former Quaker State Innovation Center. No decision has been made yet as to where the psychiatric and behavioral science units will be housed. UPMC Northwest has ruled out the Rowe Building for those units.

The Visiting Nurses Association recently moved its offices to small office buildings across the parking lot from the Rowe Building. No decision has been made public yet as to where the VNA will eventually be located and what the fate of those facilities will be.

The elimination of the Rowe Building from the UPMC Northwest realm of properties leaves only the West Unit near Franklin Hospital as remaining open once the new hospital is completed. That unit, now a cancer center, may house the Transitional Care Unit and rehabilitation services. Even that re-use plan is tentative, according to the hospital.

The new UPMC Northwest hospital will contain about 210,000 square feet, slightly less than the 250,000 square feet first envisioned. The change is due to the hospital's purchase of the former oil company research center that will house some departments previously earmarked for the new health center.

Located at the center will be purchasing, maintenance, information systems, patient accounts/billing, payroll and community relations departments. A large education center, which will accommodate up to 100 people, will also be there.

No purchase price was released by UPMC Northwest, but records in Venango County Register and Recorder Sue Buchan's office show the deal cost the health system $425,000. Renovations will begin this spring.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new UPMC Northwest hospital in Cranberry Township will be held in the spring.