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Medical center at old Lovelace hospital might expand to other uses

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Owners of the Gibson Medical Center, Jimmy Daskalos, left, and Nick Kapnison, right, with property manager Nadine Martinez-Daskalos in the lobby of the center on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct year that Lovelace closed its hospital on Gibson.

If there is a blueprint for reinventing an old hospital, Jimmy Daskalos and Nick Kapnison have not reviewed it.

When the business partners bought the former Lovelace Medical Center in 2007 after what Daskalos said was just a few days’ consideration, they expected they would figure something out.

“We just saw the facility and saw the potential,” Daskalos said during a recent walk through the building. “We’re businessmen and thought it was a great facility and has a lot of potential.”

And a lot of history. Parts of the building date to 1950 and what was then known as the Lovelace Clinic. It was home to noteworthy research through the decades; in fact, astronauts from the country’s first manned space program underwent medical testing there. Kapnison, whose own mother had a lung removed there in 1953 in what was then a state-of-the-art procedure, said the history “was one reason I bought it.”

Kapnison, Daskalos and his wife, Nadine Martinez-Daskalos, the property manager, have rebranded it Gibson Medical Center and have recruited new health care-related tenants. But with one of their anchors, ABQ Health Partners, scheduled to relocate, they say they are open to other uses.

Daskalos cited the likes of call centers and suggested they might rename the property Gibson Professional Center.

“We’d love to keep it medical, but we’re not opposed to talking about other opportunities,” Martinez-Daskalos said.

The 529,000-square-foot building was mostly empty when they took control, having closed as a hospital in 2007. They say they since have spent an estimated $10 million on upgrades. That includes remodeling for specific tenants, improving common areas and the parking lot and, most recently, installing a 540-ton cooling unit out back.

It is now about 55 percent leased with seven tenants, at least for now. ABQ Health Partners, the largest and longest-term tenant, will vacate about 150,000 square feet later this year as the medical group moves most, but not all, of the on-site services to its own facility now under construction near the Albuquerque International Sunport.

The move was not unexpected, but leaves a significant void.

Martinez-Daskalos said they have actively pursued various state and county contracts. They had long hoped to accommodate spillover from the nearby VA Hospital, but that has never happened.

The existing occupants all fit the original medical mall strategy, including a dialysis clinic, a pharmacy and a few in-patient providers including Haven Behavioral Healthcare’s geriatric psychiatric hospital — which is currently planning an on-site expansion — and Shadow Mountain Recovery’s detox and residential addiction treatment center.

The building’s owners, also partners in several Albuquerque restaurants, including Nick & Jimmy’s and El Patron, actually have plans to revive the on-site restaurant in part to serve the 24-hour facilities that currently have food brought in from elsewhere.

But with a good deal of the building still empty, they have found creative ways to use the space. That includes hosting several TV and film productions in the dormant, but intact emergency room. It hosted two seasons of “The Night Shift,” plus scenes for “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” and the upcoming “Independence Day” sequel.

“If we’re needing to service patients (there), we’d rather service patients,” Martinez-Daskalos said. “But the film industry has been wonderful to us.”

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