JEFFERSON-Northwestern Regional Housing Authority divulged new details to county commissioners Tuesday morning on its plan to revamp a longtime county mainstay.
Weeks ago, County Commissioner Larry Rhodes confirmed NRHA’s plans to transform the Historic Ashe County Hospital into an affordable housing complex for elderly citizens.
Ned Fowler, director for NRHA, confirmed his plans Tuesday and provided additional work being done to secure a new home for Mt. Jefferson Child Developmental Center, which is currently housed the old nurses quarter of the hospital.
A county fixture
Originally, the old hospital was a WPA funded project that opened to the public in 1941. Additional wings were added a decade later before room was made for surgery space and nurses’ quarters.
It was the first consolidated healthcare facility in the county. Previously, doctors made house calls first by horse and then later by car. The hospital later closed in 1971 with the completion of Ashe Memorial Hospital, which still serves the county today.
For years, the hospital has remained vacant and only a distant memory to those once served the work of the doctors and staff. New interest in the building became apparent when it was purchased by an investor in the early 2000s, but the Great Recession thwarted plans for a bed and breakfast.
NRHA then purchased the building with an interest to develop the property at some point down the road. That point is now, as a market study by the agency confirmed affordable housing as a top priority for Ashe County. To date, the housing agency has invested $100,000 in the building and is promising more to come.
Within the next two months, NRHA is expected to issue a “firm announcement for funding” and the progress of the project.
Out in the cold?
Aging infrastructure, cramped quarters and the advent of the new housing complex has also necessitated a move for the adjoining child development center housed in the hospital’s former nursing quarters.
Seeing the need for a new facility, NRHA has agreed to partner with the school to seek a new home.
On Tuesday, both parties moved closer to accomplishing that dream as county commissioners voted 5-0 to act as a conduit developer to apply for a grant that will go toward water and sewer infrastructure needs at a future site.
Fowler said this step was necessary because local governments are the only entities that can apply for this particular grant. LifeStore bank has already made a hefty contribution toward the construction of a new day care facility, said Fowler.
A new expanded facility could mean huge benefits for the county’s work force, said Fowler.
Not only will the new child care center add new positions, but an increased staff will allow the facility to offer a “second shift” day care service for parents who work that long evening shift. In talks with the county’s manufacturing leaders, Fowler added this would meet a growing demand as employers like G.E. Aviation and AEV continue to up their numbers.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.