The Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District is finalizing plans for the old hospital building to allow adult day care, private doctors offices and public meeting space, and to move the district’s headquarters there.
“We are at the stage of creating our vision,” Caroline Wasielewski, the district manager, said in an interview.
But there is a long road ahead.
At the Aug. 19 special board meeting, district board members discussed the future of the vacant hospital building at 115 W. E St.
Building repairs still need to be finalized, as do updates to the building floor plan and deciding what will be renovated both inside and outside. Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley also needs to officially give back the building to the district, as a lease is still legally in place, Wasielewski said.
The roof needs repair, some doors or windows may be added and it’s possible some walls may be removed to open up spaces in the building, said Mike Nixon, president of the TVHD board.
Agreements for building tenants are tentative.
“We want to engage Mountain Pathways in a lease to rent some square footage and put doctors offices in for sure," Wasielewski said. "We don’t have doctors yet. We can recruit and we want to put the offices in first. We want to set aside one part of the building for all the district’s operations, which part of that could be also be used as a community conference room.”
Mountain Pathways is a program funded by a nonprofit organization, Community Support Options, Inc., that assists adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn life skills and work at businesses in the community with job coaching, said John Stockton, chief executive officer of Community Support Options, Inc.
“I think it's a good repurposing of the building ... but the inside needs a lot of reworking," said Stockton.
The business is interested in renting out anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of space at the old hospital and needs an upgrade from their current business location at 311 W. F St. The old hospital would need to be ADA accessible, and fully repaired if any agreements are signed, Stockton said.
Architectural improvements and changes would need city of Tehachapi approval and would need to match the city’s building and planning codes.
“The general process is the change in use. Our codes currently see that building as a hospital, as a specific land use. It won’t be used as that going forward. So you would ultimately have to prepare a package for consideration by the Planning Commission to change it to a different use,” Jay Schlosser, city development services director, said in a recording of the special board meeting provided by the district.
The building may be allowed to have multiple uses and need to go out to bid for construction repairs, he added.
The more than 15,000-square-foot building was finished and opened in 1956 and many walls of the structure are made with reinforced concrete.
The district asked what the city’s recommendations were for the building.
“I think the city feels like the building is a tough sell to reuse it because the nature and state of it and so I know I have been forthcoming in letting everyone know, that my opinion is that you may be better off removing the building entirely and moving forward with a completely different plan as a landlord,” said Schlosser.
Downtown planning and architectural codes apply to remodels and new buildings.
“We have spent a lot of money in the last 15 years on our downtown, it matters a lot to us, so what we would hate to do is to take this in pieces and sort of not take a holistic approach to how that building fits in the downtown visually,” said Schlosser.
He added, “We’re going to be really interested in not just scabbing a couple things on the outside of the building for a new use — which may be great for you guys — but doesn’t achieve any of the goals the city might have for beautifying downtown and making it an attractive place to come have your business. Let’s be honest; the old hospital isn’t the prettiest building in the world.”
The district is focusing on repurposing the structure.
“We got an estimate of about a million to tear it down and haul it away, so from my standpoint, that is a nonstarter for considering what we have and what it would cost to modify it," Nixon said.