Senior housing? Low-income housing? City commissioners discuss what could be after $1 million demolition of old Three Rivers Hospital is complete

The Three Rivers City Commission Tuesday approved the use of over $1 million of the city’s fund balance to demolish the old Three Rivers Hospital, which City Manager Joe Bippus says has become “a public nuisance” after falling into disrepair decades ago. The project is expected to begin in the spring, and take approximately six months to complete.

Dore & Associates and EnviroLogic Technologies’ low bid of $991,700 plus $50,000 in contingency funds was accepted by the commission for the demolition and oversight of said demolition of the former hospital for a grand total of $1,041,700. project calls for $80,000 for asbestos abatement oversight, $22,500 for demolition oversight, and $35,000 for air monitoring services.

The building has sat vacant since the 1980s, and while the city has sought out a number of developers through the years to redevelop the property, the initial cost to demolish or repair the building proved to be too high. The cost of the demolition, and the fact that the entirety of the funds used for the project will come out of the city’s general fund, prompted Mayor Tom Lowry to request setting an initial value of $400,000 to anyone interested in purchasing the land after the project is complete. “I don’t want to give it away for free.”

The future use of the site will depend on a number of factors but the City of Three Rivers will have some say, as final approval of who buys the property will rest in the hands of the city commission. Lowry said the property offers “an amazing view of the rivers,” and high end apartments for seniors could be established there.

Commissioner Torrey Brown argued that the city needs more housing options for low-income residents, as most, if not all new housing being built within Three Rivers are “higher-priced units.”

“That would be something this town desperately needs,” Brown said. “Everything that’s coming in new is higher-priced units, from everything I’m looking at. If we’re trying to get in new families to this area, not all of the families are going to be well-off, and just because they’re not well-off families, doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to our community. It takes all kinds to make a community work, and if we’re only bringing in upper echelon, we’re basically alienating lower-income, and you could potentially push the people who live in the area out of their tax bracket.”

What will become of the former Three Rivers Hospital property remains to be seen but its demolition certainly marks the end of an era, and the start of something new.

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.