Developer sets sights on former hospital

By SARAH FENTEM
Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — A developer is slated to purchase a large portion of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Huntingburg for use as assisted-living condominiums, according to the seller, Huntingburg Partners LLC.

The Miller-Valentine Group, a national company based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has contracted with the seller to purchase part of the former hospital with the intention of converting it into assisted-living apartments for seniors.

Huntingburg Partners already had announced plans to convert part of the building into a psychiatric facility. Ijaz Mahmood of Huntingburg Partners said he still has every intention to go through with those plans.

“We have never given up on that idea,” he said. “We’re pretty much committed to it.”

Developer Pete Schwiegeraht of Miller-Valentine said his company is hoping to convert the north and west wings of the building into approximately 50 units for senior living. Additionally, the company hopes to build onto the north wing.

The purchase by Miller-Valentine is contingent on the company receiving funding from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in the form of tax credits. According to Schwiegeraht, the request for the federal funding is due in November and the company will know if the money has been awarded by early March.

“We’re in this site and in the project because it has a good chance of being funded,” Schwiegeraht said, adding that in Huntingburg, there is no tax-credit housing that supports seniors.

Schwiegeraht said multiple factors give the application a good chance of approval. First, there is a need in the community for senior living facilities.

“You can walk into any town and there will be a need,” thanks to the aging population, he said.

Second, the project is a combination of new construction and adaptive reuse of an old, vacant
building. Also, the Huntingburg community is supportive and the project works within the city’s vision for revitalization, both factors that Schwiegeraht said increase the project’s application score.

Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner said the redevelopment of the property is key to the city’s comprehensive plan and its goal to revamp the city’s north side.

Jasper real estate agent Andy Welsh, who brokered the deal, said he thinks the project would give a boost to the Huntingburg economy.

“It’s very important because a lot of jobs were lost,” when St. Joseph’s closed in 2007, he said. The hospital filed for bankruptcy soon after it closed its doors.

Welsh said the possibility of another hospital or large medical center opening on the site just doesn’t make sense, given its proximity to Memorial Hospital in Jasper. As such, he said, both the seller and buyers “need to explore other ways to make it work.”

Welsh reported he coincidentally is working on a deal for the Medical Arts Building on the hospital’s south side. He said that deal is unrelated to the Miller-Valentine transaction and the potential purchaser has an option to buy. Welsh expects a formal offer in the next six months, after the potential buyer performs due diligence.

Mahmood said if the sale of the former hospital goes through, that will jump-start the development of the rest of the campus by increasing the visibility of the unit and cutting down on maintenance costs for the previously unoccupied properties.

Welsh is similarly optimistic. “It’s inevitable something’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Contact Sarah Fentem at sfentem@dcherald.com.





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