San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Old Granada Hospital Could Have Five-Star Future

There may be a future for Granada’s 150-year-old decaying hospital other than haunting the western side of this old colonial city.

The Granada municipality has opened up the bidding process for a 50-year concession on the abandoned San Juan de Dios hospital, which has been rotting away for the past 11 years since it was closed.

Its crumbling innards, which have been looted over the years, could be turned into five-star hotel or a convention center, though its fate will depend on the highest bidder.

Granada Mayor Rosalía Castrillo told The Nica Times there are as many as five different tourism businesses, most of them foreignowned, interested in bidding on the hospital and refurbishing its remains. The bid was published in the local press last month.

The multimillion-dollar concession would be a boon for the Granada municipality’s coffers, which were $1.3 million in debt when Castrillo took over more than one year ago.

“We need the money. All we can do now is patch up some of the main streets, when we need to repair 17 kilometers of them,” Castrillo said.

The vast hospital covers about a square city block. Its cavernous guts are inhabited by two round-the-clock, machete-wielding municipal police guards and a nameless, malnourished mutt that eats their scraps.

“Bums come inside to smoke marijuana,” said guard Raul De Jesus de López, who has the eight-hour afternoon shift. “But when they see us, they leave.”

Bats inhabit the walls. Brush pops up out of old maternity ward rooms and tropical flowers bloom from between broken tiles.

There are snakes. A group of neighborhood kids gather on the hospital’s trash-strewn lawn and fly a kite on many afternoons.

The guards brew coffee in a rusty tin can on a makeshift fire pit and sometimes allow a homeless man to unroll a mattress on the glass-littered floor.

Though many passers-by often mistake the old building for a church due to its colonial architecture, guard José Jiron and virtually everyone else who lives in Granada can name a family member born in it.

“There’s a lot of memories here,” said Jiron, head tilted back to examine the hospital’s crumbling ceiling.

Those memories may soon be preserved in a new project that would help revive not only an important architectural building but also the city’s tourism industry.


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