Former hospital returning — as research site

The former Southwest Atlanta Hospital, closed for the past five years, is coming back to life, this time as a medical research center.

The historic hospital is being renovated to become the new home of the Atlanta Center for Medical Research this month.

ACMR said it has outgrown its Midtown Atlanta location and expects to more than double its current employment with the move.

The research organization, which conducts clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies and medical device firms, said it found the former hospital site to be the best location for its expansion.

The former Southwest Atlanta Hospital is being converted into a medical research center
The former Southwest Atlanta Hospital is being converted into a medical research center

“Southwest Hospital has really, really good bones,’’ said Eric Riesenberg, director of operations for ACMR. “It checked the most boxes.”

The property is being developed by Arberg Properties for an estimated $25 million. The purchase price of the property has not been disclosed.

Eric Riesenberg
Eric Riesenberg

“This research center is a game changer and the first of its kind,’’ Riesenberg said, adding that it will be a facility devoted solely to research that is open for use by other medical research companies.

ACMR, with 115 employees currently, expects to have 300 workers at its new site by next year.

The move will revive the 65-acre campus, close to the intersection of I-20 and I-285 near the affluent Cascade Road area of Atlanta.

Southwest Hospital was founded in the 1960s by a Catholic group and became one of just a handful of hospitals nationwide that were controlled or operated by African-Americans.

But problems with low reimbursement for services led to its closure in 2005. Most patients were uninsured, underinsured or were enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare.

Hospital leaders said at the time of the closure that many residents who had private insurance had been going to other hospitals for care.

Subsequent attempts to relaunch Southwest Hospital failed. The facility was an outpatient center when the recession helped shut it down for good in 2009. Its medical office building was closed two years later.

Johnnie Clark, chairwoman of the hospital board at the time of its first closing, told GHN on Monday that the southwest Atlanta area still needs a hospital to serve the population there.

“The need has always been there, and it’s greater now than before,’’ she said.