After two years of research and planning, the Clark Regional Foundation for the Promotion of Health has announced plans for the old Clark Regional Medical Center building on Lexington Avenue.
Jen Algire, Foundation CEO, spoke about the new organization and its goals for Clark County at a public meeting Monday at Calvary Christian Church. Although Algire said the Foundation hoped to find a viable use for the building, several factors led the Foundation board to decide demolition of the building would be the best option for the community.
“We’re spending more maintaining the building than what we plan to donate (each year),” Algire said.
The Foundation spends about $50,000 per month to keep the building from falling into disrepair, Algire said, which is about $100,000 more per year than the Foundation hopes to eventually invest in Clark and Powell counties.
The Clark Regional Foundation for the Promotion of Health was created in 2010 after the sale of Clark Regional Medical Center to LifePoint Hospitals. The Foundation has about $30 million in assets, money that must be used to benefit the public because the hospital was community owned.
LifePoint purchased the Clark Regional Medical Center business, but opted to construct a new hospital building about two miles west of the old building on Lexington Road.
“We actually have assets a lot of communities don’t have,” Algire said.
Most hospitals are purchased because they are in financial distress, Algire said, but the Clark Regional Board of Directors opted to sell the hospital in order to expand services and provide patients with a more modern building.
The Foundation took control of the old hospital building and property in April. Finding a buyer for the building proved difficult, Algire said, because updating the 1960s structure would be cost prohibitive, and a non-compete clause with LifePoint prevents most medical facilities from locating there. Several national real estate experts advised the board to demolish the building, Algire said.
“That was an eye-opening experience,” Algire said. “It’s been a long and painful way to get here, but we believe the building is not really usable and needs to be demolished.”
The Foundation plans to leave the medical offices located on the old hospital grounds intact, Algire said.
Once the decision was made, the Foundation began looking at possible uses for the more than 30-acre area, something that could benefit the entire community and promote health and wellness. The Foundation hopes to create some kind of public green space, and community input is welcomed.
“I don’t have any pre-conceived notions about what that might be,” Algire said of the proposed public space.
The Foundation was inspired by the success of the Traveling Trail, a walking trail on the Bypass owned by the Foundation, and other successful community spaces, like Danville’s Millenium Park.
“People want to be outside. They want to be fit and healthy,”¿Algire said.
A final plan is likely to be made within the next six months, according to Algire and Foundation board member Ed Mastrean. The board hopes to conduct the demolition when construction begins on the new Emergency Operations Center, also to be located on the old hospital grounds. Algire said having both projects going on simultaneously should minimize the amount of time the area is affected.
Funding for the project would come from the Foundation and other community sources. Once a formal plan is in place, the Foundation also hopes to apply for federal grants.
Most community members at the meeting spoke in favor of the project, although a few raised questions about who would be responsible for maintaining the property and the economic impact.
“We could transform Clark County into one of the healthiest communities in Kentucky,” Gina Lang, member of the Clark County Activity Coalition, said.
Details about maintenance and funding will be worked out in the next six months, as final decisions are made about the type of green space to be constructed.
“How can we make lemonade and turn it into something even more than we thought?” Algire said.
Contact Rachel Parsons Gilliam at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @ParsonsRachel.