Old St. Francis: Bargain or an albatross? 

click to enlarge Renovating the old St. Francis Hospital might disturb the asbestos. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Renovating the old St. Francis Hospital might disturb the asbestos.

The top three things to consider in real estate value are said to be location, location, location.

Except when the county assessor takes into account environmental factors, apparently.

The old St. Francis Hospital and the nine acres upon which it sits, southeast of Prospect Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, a few blocks east of downtown, have been assigned a value for tax purposes of $55,000.

Anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce challenged that finding in late May after an entity called 825 East Pikes Peak LLC, which is controlled by the region's biggest commercial real-estate developers, David Jenkins and his son Chris, bought the property in early 2014.

After that, the value was lowered from $1.8 million to $55,000 by then-El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman. (He's since been elected county treasurer.)

Lowderman explained back in June that David Jenkins provided an engineer's report detailing the building's deficiencies, including the presence of asbestos.

Lowderman pegged the "cost to cure" the asbestos issues at $2.5 million.

In recent weeks, Lowderman's successor, new County Assessor Steve Schleiker, substantiated that finding, saying via email, "The restrictive use requires that the facilities be repurposed from its previous use, requiring very extensive, time consuming and major costly renovations to occur."

Bruce calls the valuation "scandalous," noting, "Asbestos is not dangerous unless disturbed. I don't know how many tens of thousands of feet of solid, though obsolescent, building space are there. Even if demolished, what are the bricks worth at 50 cents each?"

Bruce, who's known for his rundown rental properties, says even when considering demolition costs, the nine acres close to downtown might be a goldmine.

"I would have hocked my other assets to pay $500,000 for the property," Bruce adds. "It is worth millions."

But it doesn't sound like a total demolition is likely.

Chris Jenkins said earlier this year that his company is devising a concept for the buildings.

"Our initial assessment is that the building floorplans work best to convert to residential apartments where approximately 160 one and two bedroom units could be configured," Jenkins wrote in an email in February. He added that one of the downtown area's greatest needs is urban living options.

When asked for an update last week regarding the St. Francis property, Jenkins declined to comment.

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