Renovations to the former Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville, turning it into the new Mary Hill Health Center, are expected to be completed by the end of this year, Kevin Gillespie, executive director of Integrated Services for Behavioral Health, has confirmed.
“If you drive by the building right now, you really wouldn’t notice that much unless you go on the inside,” Gillespie told The NEWS last Friday. “But we’re working on a major transformation.” By the end of the year, the outside will look very different as well, he added.
The building is being completed in stages, Gillespie previously explained. ISBH will be joined by Hopewell Health Centers as co-inhabitants of the new facility. “We’ll both be major occupants, like anchor tenants… but also co-owners,” Gillespie said in a January interview, adding that the organizations have been working alongside each other for a while. “We work together with them very closely... in service to the community,” he said. “It just made good business sense and good service sense to do it as a joint venture with them.”
The building was donated to ISBH by Doctors Hospital’s owner, OhioHealth, in June 2017 and renovations began shortly thereafter. The goal of the renovation is to make the building more energy efficient and ultimately to create a more “welcoming exterior and to prepare flexible space for other community-minded occupants,” according to a news release issued in June 2017. Other contributors to the project include Finance Fund, which provided loan funds, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, which provided a grant toward a new dental clinic, and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which provided a grant toward behavioral health services.
In the most recent interview on Friday, Gillespie said Hopewell Health Centers will be the first tenant to inhabit the new facility, on the second floor. “We will urgently try to get Hopewell Health Center onto the second floor as quickly as possible,” Gillespie said, adding that he’s “hesitant to say a date because we’re going down the home stretch of a major renovation.” The occupants will move in as their spaces are completed, Gillespie said. Hopewell should be moving in as early as September. Other tenants, including ISBH, will follow.
“My best guess is that we’ll be in by the first of the year,” Gillespie said.
Jeff Mohrman, former managing director of development at ISBH and current vice president of real estate development for Finance Fund, said last week that the project is coming together nicely, though not as swiftly as previously predicted. In January, Gillespie predicted that the project would be completed this summer, which he acknowledged as “a little ambitious” even then.
Mohrman said there’s currently a limited supply of skilled workers to meet high demands for construction projects throughout the state. “That’s made things go a little bit slower than we were projecting,” said Mohrman, who has stayed on to help ISBH with the project for the next several months.
The third floor likely will house a residential treatment center, possibly for children, in collaboration with ISBH, according to Gillespie. “There is no final decision made,” he emphasized, and the organization is still exploring options such as potential partnerships to help offer the services. “That’s very much in a planning, design phase right now but it looks very promising,” he said.
Originally, the third floor was intended to be a residential detox center, but ISBH decided to take aim at a more needed service. “We feel like that need (detox) is largely being met elsewhere,” Gillespie said, specifically listing a center in New Lexington, in Perry County.
“We’ll seek a partnership with them to get that need met,” Gillespie said of the New Lexington center. There’s also a similar facility about to open in Portsmouth in Scioto County, he added. “We will attempt to network with all those facilities,” Gillespie said.
Speaking of partnerships, ISBH probably will partner with children services agencies throughout central and southeast Ohio to provide services for the third-floor treatment center, which would serve “children with serious mental-health needs… for instance, kids with serious persistent issues related to autism,” Gillespie explained.
The second floor will be totally devoted to Hopewell Health Centers’ primary care and behavioral health services, Mohrman said. On the first floor will be a dental clinic, funded in part by Hopewell. “A lot of that funding is coming from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation,” Mohrman said.
Another wing on the first floor of the center will include offices for integrated services, Community Food Initiatives (CFI) and some other offices. CFI also will install a community garden on a hill near the center, where an old parking lot used to be.
“We’ve reimagined the front entrance” of the building, Mohrman said, adding that “it’s not just a hospital anymore.” The building will get a new entranceway to reflect its new purpose. The former chapel on the first level will receive a modern makeover as well. “We’re keeping the historic character of the chapel itself,” Mohrman said, but the space will become a conference room and community meeting space. The kitchen also will get an upgrade, though not necessarily anytime soon.
The ground floor is “probably the most uncertain” at this time, Mohrman said. “It sounds like a portion of the ground floor will be a part of the residential treatment facility, as well,” he said. The facility will have around 6,400 square feet for child care, complete with a playground and its own separate entrance to maximize security. “Some of it can even be (used for) after-school activities,” Mohrman said.
The outside of the building, Mohrman said, will have green spaces and seating areas, as well as walkways leading to the entrance from various directions. The project has taken on new character since construction began. When the work first started, Mohrman said, “We didn’t know all of the uses for the building, and we didn’t even know where some of the uses were going to go… The primary thing was to preserve the building.”
Now, the center is developing into what should be a valuable community asset, Gillespie said. “We’re going to bring a lot of jobs and economic development, that’s for sure,” he said, adding that “the city and the community have been nothing but encouraging and welcoming” of the project. Once construction is complete, the center will have a grand opening event, probably approaching the end of the year, Gillespie said.