Kings County breaks ground on Old Hospital conversion | politics

It’s been almost 50 years since the “Old Hospital” on Lacey Boulevard in Hanford was vacated and left unused. Thanks to decisive action by the Kings County Board of Supervisors, the old hospital is being remodeled and turned into offices for the county’s human and behavioral health boards.

Kings County officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday to recognize the old hospital, which was reportedly built in 1922.

The project began by approving a proposal made a year ago to save the historic hospital. Less than a year ago, the board was asked to approve a standard agreement allowing Lacey Campus Partners — along with Paynter Realty & Investments — to acquire the 44,000-square-foot building at 1222 Lacey Blvd. to buy, strengthen the foundation and remodel the interior, rehabilitate the exterior and then lease it back to the county.

“Leaseback of the building is an opportunity,” said supervisor Craig Pedersen.

He explained that the county typically has to find vacant buildings to house employees “outside the main administrative center.”

“Being able to keep things here and not have to go somewhere else is a huge plus,” said Pedersen, who is retiring as District 4 supervisor in December 2021.

“This is one of those projects … that the whole community is proud of,” he said. “This will be one I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Pedersen said the county was able to initiate the project through a private-public (PP3) code that allows for collaboration between private companies like Paynter and Lacey Campus Partners and Kings County.

Kyria Martinez, Assistant County Administrator, explained.

“We’re involved in administration because we were approached by a large developer who wanted to buy the building, remodel it and lease it back,” she said, noting that the project was quickly moving into this week’s groundbreaking phase.

“We were thrilled,” she said of Paynter’s proposal to take charge of the project in the summer of 2021. “We brought it to us [supervisors] Plank. They were excited…it was a 5-0 vote. And here we are with groundbreaking ones.”

Supervisor Doug Verboon (District 3) echoed her sentiments.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to do this for the county and to restore a vacant building for the county,” Verboon said. “We bring history back to life.”

Themes of birth and rebirth, restoring physical and mental health, healing broken bones and healing the heart were heard throughout the morning session.

Longtime residents of the county shared their experiences at the old hospital in the 1950s and 1960s. The participants discussed their early childhood falls and scraped knees, life-threatening surgeries and routine surgeries.

“I came to Kings County from Oklahoma,” said Pastor Lonnie Keele, who delivered the invocation. “There is a lot of history behind this hospital.”

Edward Hill, County Clerk, spoke before the groundbreaking.

“It’s a beautiful day in Kings County as we honor this building where so many residents were born,” Hill said. “We are here today to lay the foundation for this ‘new’ building.”

Hill shared a few key facts about the original hospital, noting that it took 122 labor days to build at a cost of $26,362.

The county expects a one-time cost of $375,000 for the renovated building, in addition to an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 for “oversight of construction management of the project.”

The cost of demolishing the old hospital and then rebuilding it from the ground up was prohibitive, a supervisor said. However, it is estimated that by renting back the converted building with an option to purchase it in the future, the county will save money.

“If we can do that, I believe that [renovation] breathtaking,” said Jim Sanders, executive vice president of Paynter Realty & Investments.

Sanders said he grew up in the area and was determined to keep the pioneering hospital alive — at least in spirit.

“We’re excited to be laying the groundwork,” Sanders said. “I would like to thank the managers. We wouldn’t be here without you. We really appreciate your foresight.”

Pedersen, who read a proclamation formalizing the project, said the conversion of the old hospital into new offices represented Kings County’s “past, present and future.”

“Look at the challenges this community had to go through to make this happen,” Pedersen said. “It will be a beautiful building when it’s finished.”

Chairman Neves (District 1) agreed.

“This is going to be phenomenal,” he said, pointing to two refurbished rocking chairs in front of the shovels used for the groundbreaking. The chairs were salvaged from the hospital’s original “birth room,” Neves told attendees during the opening speech.

Verboon spoke openly about the old hospital building, which had been boarded up for almost half a century.

“It’s been a bit of an eyesore since the ’70s,” Verboon said, noting that he was glad that bosses had approved the restoration of the old hospital.

“I think it’s great that we’re saving part of history,” he said. “Often we erase the past by tearing down these old buildings.”

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