County to sell old hospital for $1.2 million

Haywood County’s old hospital is set to get a new life after commissioners agreed last week to sell the building for use as low-income housing for the county’s senior citizens.

Following discussions in closed session at their Nov. 15 meeting, Commissioner Mark Swanger made a motion to sell the building to Fitch Development company for $1.275 million.

The sale, however, is contingent on the development company reaching several different benchmarks before the deed is handed over.

“There’s a lot of things that have to happen,” explained interim county manager Marty Stamey, one of which is garnering a historic property designation and listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The company would have to apply for tax credits from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. If the buyers can jump through those hoops, the county has agreed to front them a 20-year, $159,000 loan at 2 percent interest to get the project off the ground, and increase its competitiveness for the tax credits. Under current plans for the building, that would amount to $3,000 per unit.

Those figures might change, as the final number of units to be housed in the former hospital hasn’t been determined.

This offer is contingent on the fact that all these things come into play,” said Stamey, “but [on the current timescale] the developers would start environmental remediation and construction in April 2012.”

The building is currently home to the county’s Department of Social Services and the Board of Education. While DSS has found a new home in Clyde’s former Wal-Mart building, the Board of Education will now have to find a new space before construction gets under way.

The current plan for the building calls for 53 units. As construction draws closer, an analysis will be done to assess the current needs of the county. The results of that study may change the type and number of units.

The offer from Fitch was one of two bids presented to commissioners and offered the highest purchase price for the property.

Stamey said he sees this as a win-win for the county, who will not only get a good price for the building and pull in more tax revenue, but a valuable piece of Haywood County history will be preserved and maintained. And, elderly residents will find the housing they need.

“There’s a serious lack of elderly housing that’s affordable for seniors in our area,” said Stamey. “A lot of counties and municipalities are doing this across the state, and one of the worst things you’d want to see is for the hospital to sit up there and be a dinosaur and just deteriorate away. It has so much historic value to so many people.”

Built in 1927, the massive brick building was the first county hospital in North Carolina. It was renovated in 1955, but a full-scale renovation would, today, cost about $6 million, more than the county could afford on its own. The sale would not include the site’s excess parking or the building that now houses the Smoky Mountain Center.

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