The Corp. unit of the Farmer Companies has requested and is receiving an easement from Jefferson City on two small parcels of land within the former St. Mary's Health Center campus it acquired in December 2015.
The City Council extended a first approval Monday to two bills, sponsored by Councilman Larry Henry, which would legally vacate and discontinue public use of portions of the 500 block of West Elm Street and a 20-foot-wide alley known as West Schroeder Way.
Farmer Holding Company's Rob Kingsbury told the News Tribune the maneuvering with the two parcels should not be interpreted as indicative of any imminent launch of a specific development.
"Our engineer recommended we get easements on those two parcels to better prepare the site for our future development at St. Mary's," Kingsbury said in an interview.
"It doesn't mean we are ready to announce something definite there. We won't hold anything back from the community when we have something we can announce," he added. "We want Jefferson City to know what we will be doing with St. Mary's. When we know, we'll certainly let our friends and neighbors know."
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When the Farmers acquired the landmark two weeks before Christmas in 2015, Kingsbury emphasized the firm would renovate and repurpose the campus of the historic Catholic hospital.
The transaction between the Farmer family enterprise and the previous owner, SSM Health of St. Louis, included the original hospital, built in 1904, plus its improvements, an adjoining office building used by medical professionals providing care at St. Mary's, surface parking lots and two parking garages.
Matt Morasch, director of the city's Public Works Department, advised the Council on Monday closing the rights-of-way was essential to prepare for a future F&F project at the 11.3-acre complex along heavily-traveled Missouri Boulevard. The action by the Council "will clear the titles and get it ready for future development," Morasch said. Final approval of the move will be on the Council's Feb. 20 agenda.
"The Elm Street right-of-way was created with the original city plat," Morasch said of the historic roots of the property. "The right-of-way in question is located between the Highway 54 off ramp to Missouri Boulevard to the west and Wears Creek to the east. Given its location, it does not appear that the vacation of this parcel will have any negative impact on the public."
The West Schroeder Way tract, a passageway surrounded by St. Mary's buildings, met the same basic criteria — part of the original city plat and having no negative impact on the public, Morasch said. "This alley is located on property that was most recently part of the old St. Mary's hospital. The current owner, F&F Development, has requested the vacation as it looks to the redevelopment of the site."
The Council also extended similar first approval Monday to a staff recommendation to vacate a blanket sanitary sewer easement at 505-511 Missouri Blvd.
Kingsbury said the Farmers continue to embrace their previously-stated redevelopment stance for St. Mary's "to maximize its potential."