New Memorial Hospital ER to replace Seminole Heights Baptist Church

Seminole Heights may have lost one landmark but it’s gaining another with the addition of the Memorial Hospital of Tampa freestanding emergency room, set to replace the Seminole Heights Baptist Church at the southeast corner of Hillsborough Avenue and Interstate 275 in Central Tampa. 

The widely anticipated medical facility will fill the increasing needs for an emergency room in the heart of Tampa. And its convenience at the confluence of several major arteries, including Interstate 275, Hillsborough Avenue, and Nebraska Avenue (U.S. Route 41) will ensure easy access from various parts of the city. 

But while the new Memorial Hospital of Tampa freestanding emergency room is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, the project also has attracted the attention of longtime Tampans and Tampa natives who were disappointed that the development brought the end of Seminole Heights Baptist Church. The parish was established in 1921 and built its large, red-brick church in 1949 to replace a smaller building. 

Seminole Heights Baptist Church once boasted a large congregation. However, those numbers rapidly fell over the past couple of decades and became too small to financially support the mounting costs of maintaining the aging church building, whose steeple reached some 130 feet into the heavens and was a highly visible landmark for generations of passers-by on Hillsborough Avenue and Interstate 275.

The 43-foot steeple was acquired by nearby Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café and after restoration may eventually be incorporated into the restaurant. 

Meanwhile, many Seminole Heights residents sought but failed to gain historic designation for the building with hopes of sparing it from demolition. The church’s leaders, who now operate Harvest Baptist Fellowship at 5902 North Himes Avenue, sold the 50,000-square-foot church and its three parcels for $6.9 million to Nashville-based HCA Healthcare, which is affiliated with Memorial Hospital of Tampa. 

“Memorial Hospital of Tampa’s freestanding emergency room will include 10,000 square feet to accommodate 11 beds and a trauma bay, with emergency services support, including laboratory, radiology, CT, and ultrasound diagnostic services,” says Cindy Cucuz, Director of Communications and Community Engagement at Memorial Hospital of Tampa. 

Memorial Hospital currently has two emergency room facilities, including one on the campus of Memorial Hospital of Tampa at 2901 West Swann Avenue in South Tampa and another at Tampa Community Hospital at 6001 Webb Road in Town ‘n’ Country. The new Seminole Heights facility will be the first freestanding emergency room for the organization’s family of private hospitals in Tampa. 

“Our goal is to bring convenient emergency services to the Seminole Heights community and surrounding areas at a central location,” says Cucuz. “Memorial Hospital of Tampa is committed to bringing high-quality services to the communities we serve.” 

Memorial Hospital is investing millions into new projects in the Tampa Bay Area, including the completion of a $19.5 million behavioral health program expansion and a $50 million endocrine surgery program expansion at Tampa Community Hospital campus, in addition to extensive renovations at hospital’s nearly 60-year-old main campus on Swann Avenue.

“We look forward to joining the Seminole Heights community with a beautiful state-of-the-art emergency service,” says Cucuz. “We’re also excited about the opportunity to maintain the historic fire station on the property.” 

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Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.
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