Sentara: 'No immediate plans' for 135 acres it bought on Halstead


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sentara Healthcare has purchased 135 acres on Halstead Boulevard Extended in Elizabeth City, spending more than $4 million for the large, vacant tract, according to Pasquotank County land records.

But what the Norfolk, Virginia-based health care system plans to do with the land is unknown. A Sentara spokeswoman wouldn’t say Wednesday — and Pasquotank officials say they’re not privy to Sentara’s plans.

“It is not uncommon for Sentara to purchase land in the communities it serves, such as the parcel on Halstead Extended,” Sentara Brand Engagement Advisor Liz Vandendriessche said in an email Wednesday. “There are no current plans for this land and we will continue providing comprehensive hospital services to the region at our current location.”

That “current location” is Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, formerly known as Albemarle Hospital, located about four miles southeast of the tract Sentara now owns. Sentara has invested millions of dollars into the Sentara Albemarle facility, including a new orthopedics center and other renovations.

Sentara purchased the tract on Halstead Boulevard Extended through a subsidiary, MPB, Inc., last October, county records show. The deed of sale does not identify Sentara as the purchaser, but Virginia’s State Corporation Commission shows the subsidiary is located at 6015 Poplar Hall Drive in Norfolk, the home of the Sentara Foundation-Hampton Roads.

MPB paid $4.07 million for two parcels totaling about 135 acres of vacant land at the northwest corner of the intersection of Halstead Extended and Thunder Road, purchasing the property from Martha Bundy, executrix of the will of Shirley Meads.

In interviews Wednesday, Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry, County Manager Rodney Bunch and County Attorney Mike Cox said they weren’t privy to Sentara’s plans, but reiterated the health care system has a long-term lease — with a 30-year initial term that started in 2014 — with the county to operate the former Albemarle Hospital.

Cox declined to say whether the county’s hiring of Bob Wilson, an attorney specializing in health care issues, has any connection to Sentara’s land purchase.

Bunch said the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center building dates back to the 1960s and sits on 71 acres off North Road Street. Bunch noted that much of the acreage is wooded and includes wetlands, which could limit additional construction on the site.

The acreage Sentara now owns on Halstead Boulevard Extended is almost double the current hospital site’s acreage.

Unlike Sentara Albemarle, which is outside the city limits, the Halstead Boulevard Extended properties are inside Elizabeth City’s corporate limits, City Manager Rich Olson said Wednesday. That means any project there would be subject to the city’s zoning, he noted.

He also said Sentara hasn’t approached the city about use of the site.

Given Vandendriessche’s claim Sentara has no “current plans” for the Halstead Boulevard Extended site, the property could go undeveloped for some time. Asked if they were concerned about that much acreage on the city’s newest commercial corridor sitting undeveloped, Bunch and Olson both said no. There is still an abundance of vacant land on Halstead Extended, Bunch noted.