The name of a real estate developer and his wife will go on a new hospital being built in downtown Indianapolis in recognition of $40 million they've given toward the project to replace the aging Wishard Memorial Hospital.
Wishard officials announced Wednesday the donation from Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. The unrestricted donation will go toward the new $754 million hospital that is scheduled to open in 2013 and take the place a Wishard facility that is spread over 17 buildings, many of which were built before World War II.
Wishard serves almost two-thirds of the uninsured hospital patients in Marion County and has the state's largest burn center, along with being a major trauma center.
"The Eskenazi gift is incredible news for 'the people's hospital,'" U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., said Wednesday. "Renaming Wishard in their honor is a fitting tribute to generosity that will result in even better medical care for the entire community."
Sidney Eskenazi, 81, grew up in Indianapolis and in 1963 founded Sandor Development, which now has shopping centers in 23 states.
"We've been very lucky," Eskenazi told The Indianapolis Star. "Now it's time to give back."
Eskenazi said he remembered many people from his neighborhood going to what was then known as City Hospital when he grew up as the son of a shoe repairman and a homemaker during the Great Depression.
"If you were in an accident, or needed help with your diabetes or had a gunshot wound, and you couldn't afford to go to another hospital, you could go to (Wishard), and they would take care of you," Eskenazi told the Star.
The hospital has been named since 1975 for Dr. William Niles Wishard, who was City Hospital's superintendent in the late 1800s.
Wishard officials said the Eskenazi gift will help with financing of the new complex without increasing its reliance on Marion County property taxes.
The new hospital also is being paid for with $150 million the system had put aside in cash and a bond issue that Marion County voters approved in 2009.
"People love the Wishard name. It's been very good to the community," said Matthew Gutwein, president and chief executive of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp., which operates Wishard. "At the same time, I think people will be incredibly grateful to the Eskenazis for their generosity and will embrace the new name."
Eskenazi started his development company after working for a time as an attorney for Melvin Simon, who founded what is now the nation's largest shopping mall operator, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group.
During a tour of the Wishard construction site, Sidney Eskenazi spoke approvingly of the new hospital that will have 327 inpatient beds.
"What I built over the years were cookie-cutter buildings," he said. "This is different. This is really special."
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com