LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Home Hospital is no longer home to many medical services now that Saint Elizabeth East opened on Lafayette's east side, but the area is home to many neighbors who are concerned about the building's fate.
Currently the only medical service left is a psychiatric unit. Saint Elizabeth Regional Health hopes to move the few other non-medical offices out of the building by the first quarter of 2011. What happens then, is anyone's guess.
For many who live near Home Hospital the building is almost ghostly even though it is physically still standing.
"It was very scary driving by the first time and seeing that," said Co-chair of the Perrin Neighborhood Association Kyle Gingrich Fulks. "To see it empty all of a sudden, a big huge place like that is sad."
Kyle Gingrich Fulks lives in the Perrin neighborhood near Home Hospital. She was born at the building and because it's still part of her life she worries about its final days, but the President and CEO of Saint Elizabeth Regional Health, Terry Wilson, vowed to be a good neighbor until the hospital's future is determined.
"We've made a commitment that as long as we own it, it won't become an eyesore and become dangerous," said Wilson.
He said the property has received some interest from buyers, though he won't say who, but so far there have been no takers. The City of Lafayette is helping the medical group find a good fit for the space. Redevelopment Director Dennis Carson said the city is willing to offer a buyer some incentives to purchase the property.
"A tax abatement or something like that may be of help to make projects that move forward," Carson explained.
In addition to tax breaks, the city could also help a new owner rezone the property so it's a better fit for a new use. Many former hospitals have new lives as senior, student or affordable housing. Others become community centers. Neighbors said turning Home Hospital into a veterans hospital might also be a good idea.
"There's been a lot of talk about the veterans and thinking they need something better, they deserve something better," said Fulks.
Tearing down the building is also an option, but an expensive one. Saint Elizabeth Regional Health said it checked into the possibility and the price tag comes to between $6 and $8 million. Maintaining the building until it is sold is also pricey. The cost to keep the water and electricity on for a year while the building remains empty is $750,000. Neighbors fear if the building sits too long, it could attract bad things.
"Some people are afraid there will be crime gathering around those places," said Fulks.
Many admit finding a new use could be a challenge.
"We've been marketing the property for many months," said Wilson.
"It's really hard to find someone to come and say, 'I want it as is,' and use it in that original use," said Carson.
"There's a big concern we're being left with a huge building with nothing that can go in it but a hospital," said Fulks. "We've got so many empty buildings on this north end and we have no idea if anything is going to happen to any of them."
Once filled with healing, those who live near the former hospital and the city hope it will soon be filled again with purpose.
The psych unit will move to Saint Elizabeth Central at the beginning of 2011. After that, all services here at Home Hospital will have been permanently relocated. NewsChannel 18 will continue to follow any developments with the property.
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