By Alton Porter
The former Grapeland nursing home will see new life –- possibly serving as an assisted living facility, office building or for some other purpose –- in the not too distant future.
The now vacant building, known to city officials as "the Church Street property," located at 205 Church St., is about to undergo restoration and could be used in the future for any one of a number of purposes, according to Mayor Balis Dailey.
In its heyday, the 18,000- square-feet facility housed Grapeland Nursing Center, Inc., according to Dailey, who said the solid structure could be used for a similar purpose or some other unrelated function when restoration is completed. "It's a good piece of property, and it's very strong," Dailey said. "We want to put it back into activity. It's a building we want to make into something wonderful for the community."
The first part of the restoration will involve replacing the building's roof, which was considerably damaged by the severe rainfall and flooding last spring. Then, other repairs would need to be made to the building's air conditioning system and plumbing, Dailey said.
He said the nursing home ceased operations in the early 2000s, and the city took possession of the property around 2011.
After housing the nursing home, the building was occupied by Talent Sharing, Inc., and Texas Conservatory of Church, Dailey said.
"We tried to use it as a civic center at one time," he noted. "We tried to use it as a little training center where people had it and did such things as teach music lessons in it. And then, it just got in disrepair, and they took all the things out of it. So, it was just an abandoned building...."
Then, "what happened was that we started getting those floods" which "started coming down in it and made it unusable," he said.
Dailey added, "the roof let go on it. It was an old, old roof" on the building, which was built back around 1967. "That made it pretty bad, with all that rain that came in and flooded it," he said.
As a result, Dailey said, "We were able to get ($350,000 in) disaster relief funds. And those funds are about enough to allow us to put a new roof on it. And then, we're just going to work on it and restore it.
"We're going to have two options, and we're going to pursue both of them. The first option is to put (the property) up for sale to get it back on the tax rolls. And the second one is to lease it. Either way.
"We would love for somebody to come back in and pursue putting it back into use, maybe as an assisted living facility because it's made for that. It has all the things set up. It has the call centers and all the things still intact that are pretty much used for assisted living."
Another possible use of the facility could be converted for is that of an office building, Dailey said. "That was one of the options of leasing it," he explained. "Those rooms (in the facility) would lend themselves for nice offices. We would entertain that if somebody wanted to have an office in there.
"We would love to have people come in and lease the rooms as offices. We could do any of those things. If we had people wanting to do it, I think we could make them a good deal. We could work with them and fix their office space up and get it ready and have good tenants. The wings also make it absolutely a super place for offices, and the hallways are huge. Every room has a window in it."
"We would love for people to contact us if they want to have their business here in Grapeland. We would be excited."
Dailey added, "It would make wonderful office spaces for people who want to come in, or even governmental agencies that would like to have satellite offices. It would be great for a college for night school. Of course, we already have that in Crockett, but the rooms are set up in that way. They are individual rooms and they are perfect for little classrooms. And then there's a larger area where they had their dining room and recreational area. That makes it convenient for something like that."
"We hope to have the roof replaced by June or July," Dailey said. He said an architectural and environmental study must first be done. Then, an engineering assessment must be completed to make sure there's no problem with the roof structure. "And then, we'll get started, he said. "I'm thinking just in my estimation – I don't have a schedule from anybody – we'll get started replacing the roof in March. There are a number of things we have to do, and it takes a little time getting them all checked off."
"That (replacing the roof) is our main project right now. And then, we have a scheduled list of projects that we want to go through, which will include revamping the air conditioning system, revamping the electrical and revamping the plumbing. Then, we'll redo the floors. We'll do these when the funds become available. Or, if we get a tenant in there, then we'll go and do those things we need to do."
Dailey said the source of the grant funds for the project is the federal Community Development Block Grant program administered in Texas by the Texas Department of Agriculture.
He said Grapeland city officials applied for the grant within just four days after being given a heads up on the availability of the funds by former Houston County Judge Erin Ford in October. And the city received its grant award letter in December.
"It normally takes a long time (to apply for and receive such grants)," Dailey said. "It came under our disaster relief funding. So, we were able to get them to look at that. And were able to get it in, and it was one of those things where funding came available at a late minute. In other words, it was like we had already missed (the application filing period).
"And so, we kind of missed all that stuff. And then, all of a sudden, they ended up with a little bit of extra money. And that money became available, but you had only a short period of time to apply for it. Normally, it takes you a lot longer, but fortunately we were able to get the engineering done and do all the other aspects required to get the application in, and we were lucky enough (to get it done).
"I think there were 16 applicants or so, and I believe they chose three or four to fund. And we were one of those that got chosen."