AUSTIN, Texas — It stood tall in the heart of Austin for 50 years, but soon it will come down.
The University Medical Center Brackenridge Tower is part of the former hospital. Before it's torn down this summer, the community had the chance to say goodbye on Wednesday.
That tower has served thousands of patients, doctors and nurses over the years.
On Wednesday morning, some of them shared their memories of the hospital before it's demolished to make room for new development.
People like Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
"On numerous occasions, I've found myself at old Brackenridge Hospital many times walking in pretty scared, most every time walking out feeling real protected," said Mayor Adler.
Others like Dr. Stephen Pont remembered working there in the 1990s.
"My first mentors and physicians and nurses and assistants and the nurses in the intensive care unit bought me my first stethoscope as I went off to med school," said Dr. Pont.
He added, "I think it's important to remember the past and look towards the future. I think the critical mission of Brackenridge being the safety net hospital turning no one away by providing critical services to those most in need is an important thing that we must never forget."
The nine-story tower has been sitting along Interstate Highway 35 and 15th Street for about 50 years, and Brackenridge Hospital itself has been there since 1884. That's more than 100 years.
So, this tower has been a landmark for hospital care in Austin and Travis County. The hospital closed in 2017 and services were moved to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas across the street.
UT President Greg Fenves said it is an honor for the university to be part of this partnership.
"But if we look across the street, we also see the future, we have the past and future in one view and it's just a wonderful transition for this community as we look to the future of health care for a healthy population," he said.
Others who came out to commemorate the hospital included patients and members of Central Health.
“Central Health wants to make sure that before that process starts we have a chance to honor the people that worked at that hospital,” said Ted Burton, the vice president of communications at Central Health. “Hospitals play such a vital role in the community and UMC Brackenridge was certainly no different than that.”
This level one trauma center used to be a safety net for those who didn't have health insurance. Now the 14-acre property will be used to help pay for health care for those in Travis County who are low income.
Central health is already making millions off part of this property towards that cause. That's because this is a prime location in Downtown Austin, sitting right near the University of Texas. Part of the hospital has been leased out. Burton said by the end of 2019 Central Health will have generated more than $4 million in lease revenue.
With the rest of the space, it's pursuing many different options, like a lease with 2033 Higher Education Foundation, which benefits UT and Dell Medical School. They’re also considering putting in education jobs and retail.
“It could be a situation where Central Health is leasing track by track or block by block, or perhaps a developer could come in and want to lease more than one block," said Burton. "Every option is on the table with the primary goal being generating funds to pay for health care in Travis County.”
There are still a lot of possibilities of what could become of the space once the tower is torn down, but the entire property is expected to generate more than $400 million over the course of 99 years.
Realizing what the establishment means to the community, Central Health plans to host a meeting on Monday night to provide an update on the property's redevelopment efforts and plans for its use moving forward.
That meeting is expected to take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday night in the Central Health Board Room located at 1111 E. Cesar Chavez St. RSVP is preferred. You can contact Central Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor Adler also proclaimed May 15 "Brackenridge Hospital Commemoration Day." State Senator Kirk Watson also proclaimed May 15 "Brackenridge Hospital Day," in the Texas Senate.
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