Wellstar closed Atlanta Medical Center’s emergency room Oct. 14 and will shut down the entire hospital on Nov. 1. (Wellstar Health Care)

The Atlanta City Council approved legislation Oct. 17 that authorizes Mayor Andre Dickens’ executive order to halt any redevelopment plans for Atlanta Medical Center’s 25-acre site after it closes in two weeks.

Dickens issued an executive order last month directing the Department of City Planning to refuse any applications for rezoning, building permits, land disturbances, special administrative permits, subdivisions, replatting or lot consolidations within Atlanta Medical Center’s footprint. The mayor renewed the executive order on Oct. 4.

The council voted Monday to extend the mayor’s moratorium for 180 days, instead of two weeks. The city wants the time to review zoning regulations of the hospital site and surrounding areas and possibly implement new rules to guide redevelopment in the rapidly gentrifying Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

The moratorium could expire sooner if the city approves a new zoning plan before the 180 days are up.

Wellstar Health System’s announcement Aug. 31 it was closing AMC by Nov. 1 shocked city leaders as the metro area deals with an already strained healthcare system. The hospital’s emergency room closed Oct. 14.

AMC is a 460-bed hospital that has been a fixture in the city for 120 years. It provided essential backup and overflow for Grady Hospital as the only other Level I trauma center in metro Atlanta, and serves primarily low-income populations.

The parcels that make up the Atlanta Medical Center campus along Boulevard near the Downtown Connector are currently a mix of zoning categories, including C-1 Community Business District Regulations, C-2 Commercial Service District, and C-4 Central Area Commercial Residential District. Some of the properties fall within both the Beltline Overlay District and Beltline Affordable Workforce Housing District.

The market value for the 15 parcels that make up the AMC site is nearly $107 million, according to Fulton County property records. Wellstar bought the hospital in 2016 for nearly $66 million.

The mayor has said he would like to see some of the property be used for healthcare services. The prime real estate along Boulevard and northeast of the Downtown Connector, is ripe for mixed-uses, such as housing, retail and office.

Wellstar, a nonprofit healthcare company, said it was forced to close AMC after reported losses of $107 million last year and that the Covid-19 pandemic and “intense financial headwinds straining healthcare organizations right now only made matters worse at AMC.”

Wellstar has updates on its on its website about the AMC closure and what it is doing to help patients and nearly 2,000 employees in the transition. The company said in a FAQ the decision to close came after two years of trying to find a solution to deal with heavy financial losses at AMC, including searching for a partner or buyer.

Wellstar announced earlier this year it was closing its hospital in East Point.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.