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County may buy old hospital for $1.9M

Remnants of the old Sandia Ranch hospital sit on 17 acres in the North Valley. A neighbor says the place was once a sanitarium for people with mental illness. Online videos suggest it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Remnants of the old Sandia Ranch hospital sit on 17 acres in the North Valley. A neighbor says the place was once a sanitarium for people with mental illness. Online videos suggest it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Online videos describe it as an old insane asylum – haunted by the victims of botched surgeries and other accidents.

Teenagers like to explore the place at night, neighbors say.

Now Bernalillo County wants to buy it.

County commissioners agreed unanimously last week to authorize negotiations for 17 acres in the North Valley – once home to the Sandia Ranch hospital – for about $1.9 million.

The plan is to demolish the buildings, or what’s left of them, and make the land available for use by the Parks and Recreation Department. An aquatic center, agricultural demonstration site or something similar are among the possibilities.

“I think it’s a site we should acquire, clean it up and make it a resource for the community,” Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said in an interview.

The property certainly has some mystery to it.

At least two videos posted to YouTube carry footage of a dilapidated, graffiti-covered building – with captions that describe the Sandia Ranch hospital as an abandoned insane asylum. In one video, scenes of mental patients being operated on are interspersed with photos of the building, as Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” plays in the background.

Remnants of the old Sandia Ranch hospital sit on 17 acres in the North Valley. A neighbor says the place was once a sanitarium for people with mental illness. Online videos suggest it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Remnants of the old Sandia Ranch hospital sit on 17 acres in the North Valley. A neighbor says the place was once a sanitarium for people with mental illness. Online videos suggest it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A third video includes the “insane asylum” on a list of haunted properties in New Mexico. The videos are posted under screen names that don’t make it clear who took the footage.

The property is on Edith just north of Osuna. From the road, it looks like an overgrown lot.

“The teenagers kind of view it as a spooky place,” said R.J. Marney, president of El Camino Real Neighborhood Association.

Chris Christy, who has lived down the street for 40 years, said she doesn’t think the property is haunted, just run-down.

The county, she said, would “make a much better neighbor.”

Marney said the neighborhood’s goal is simply to make sure that whatever happens to the property is compatible with the neighborhood, which lies along a section of Edith Boulevard that was once El Camino Real, or the “Royal Road,” which connected New Mexico to the outside world.

“We don’t want to see any heavy commercial or industrial uses in the neighborhood,” Marney said. “We’d like to see the historical value of the neighborhood preserved.”

The county identified the owner of the property as David Gonzales. He didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.

Final approval of the purchase is expected to come back to the County Commission later this summer, perhaps in August.

The county appraised the property at roughly $1.7 million, and Gonzales has submitted his own evaluation contending that it’s worth $2.7 million.

Neighbors of the old Sandia Ranch hospital say teenagers visit the place at night, attracted by rumors that it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Neighbors of the old Sandia Ranch hospital say teenagers visit the place at night, attracted by rumors that it’s haunted. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

But the two sides have agreed on $1.9 million. The county would pay the $121,000 demolition cost as part of the $1.9 million agreement.

“The commission has to decide if they agree it would be a good thing for the community,” O’Malley said. “The property has been problematic. I think neighbors see it as blighted.”

She said she would like to see a community process to help plan use of the property.

“Large parcels like this aren’t easy to come by,” she said.

Christy said the property was once a sanitarium for people with tuberculosis, then a sanitarium for people with mental illness and later a retirement home.

But is it haunted?

“I think this has just become a ratty little place,” Christy said.

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