For sale: one 44-year-old hospital. Previously licensed as a 49-bed acute care hospital, 66,620 square-feet on two acres. Not to be used as hospital. $1.9 million. Fixer-upper. Call the Staubach Company.

The beautiful new Ennis Regional Medical Center squarely planted at the corner of Lampasas and the 287 Bypass in full swing, a rare example of a new city-owned hospital that's privately run.

The old hospital at 803 West Lampasas is utterly vacant. Boarded up, there's no sign that  just last year, it was the city’s medical center — but a sign tells bypassers who to call in case they want to buy a former hospital.

The emphasis is on the word FORMER.

“In the sale of the existing old hospital, we have a non-compete clause that we will not sell the old hospital to be used as a traditional hospital facility, because it would be injurious to the interests of Lifepoint Hospitals and to the city itself,” Howerton said.

“You wouldn’t want to invest $35 million in a new hospital and then put an old hospital in to compete with it. That wouldn’t be intelligent,” he said. “Whatever the use, it will have to be something different than the traditional acute care hospital such as the one we’re operating with Lifepoint.”

The Staubach Company has been retained to sell the facility, Howerton said.

“We’re actively marketing the facility. They’re very competent and have already produced several interesting leads,” he said. “We initially said we’d give ourselves two years — we think it may take that long to find the right user.”

Howerton prefers not to use the expression “tirekickers,” but so far the few parties booking a tour to look at the old hospital have done just that — look.

“It shouldn’t be misunderstood as anyone making firm offers or commitments,” he said. “Obviously, there's interest in the facility, but we haven’t found anyone interested in terms of the price to be paid. I'm sure there will continue to be interest in it as the building has specific uses and could be productively used.”

A bargain? Howerton thinks it could be.

“Someone can buy, for a mere $1.9 million, a facility that could have a book value of $5 million or $6 million, once it was remodeled and brought up to the operating needs of that user,” Howerton said. "But it's kind of a fixer upper.”

Other options on the table for the property could include lease or even demolition. The building has been ruled out as a possible site for a new municipal center.

For the right buyer willing to bring jobs and additional tax base to the Bluebonnet City, there could be some additional consideration, Howerton said.

“Job creation is a big  thing, tax base enhancement is a big thing, so all those things enter in. Those are all things we’ve considered and will continue to consider.”

E-mail J. Louise Larson at jlouise.larson@wninews.com