There is hope for redeveloping hospital property

A group of developers has offered the borough $350,000 for the former hospital property, which is $120,000 less than the new asking price and $480,000 less than the old asking price of last year.

But what’s really new is that anyone is offering anything for the 1.94-acre property and the more than 30,000-square-foot building, much of which was built 45 years ago. The borough has been looking for buyers for almost a year, and this is the first real offer.

The lack of serious interest is an indication that the original price was too high, that asbestos removal is a financial deterrent for taking over and reusing the building, as is the cost of remodeling the hospital and its small rooms into something that makes economic sense.

Meanwhile, the borough is now in its second year of paying to heat and insure the empty building, money that could be better spent maintaining all the other borough facilities in need of attention.

The question for the borough assembly is not whether $350,000 is a fair price — it is the only price, and at least it’s higher than zero — but whether the developers’ proposal can succeed.

The three men who shared their proposal with borough officials — two of whom are executives in a California-based taco business with multiple locations and franchises — propose to turn the former hospital into a high-end senior citizen independent living center, attracting people to move here for the lifestyle and recreational opportunities.

The second phase of their plan includes building townhouses — anything with the word “houses” is great news for Wrangell, which is so short of available housing that employers frequently cite it as a problem in attracting and retaining new workers.

The developers estimate the senior apartments at $3.26 million and the second phase at about $6 million. If it happens, that’s quite an investment in the town’s economy, jobs, sales and property tax revenues. All the more reason not to quibble over the $350,000 offer.

But first, before the developers write a check to the borough, they would have 180 days to really pick over the property, complete their feasibility studies, look at their cost estimates and potential revenues, and decide whether they want to follow through on their offer.

Borough officials certainly will assist the trio in conducting their due diligence of the property, answering questions and providing information on the building, zoning and anything else they can provide to help with the decision.

The community will hope that the developers like what they see during their review process and follow through with the $350,000 offer, and that the borough assembly votes to accept it. The town needs some good economic news.

— Wrangell Sentinel


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