New Castle Community Wellness Center

Renderings for a the proposed New Castle Community Wellness Center to be constructed at the St. Francis Hospital site.

Charles Everhardt and his two partners work in real estate.

Today, they have targeted the health care field, specifically veterans health care. The VA Mission Act of 2018 provides them with a mission-specific opportunity, and an old New Castle hospital offers a landing zone.

City Council and its solicitor set up a defense perimeter during Tuesday’s public hearing, where Everhardt submitted a conditional use request.

Everhardt, who has addresses in New York and Florida, talked to council about his plans for a veterans housing and wellness center at the former St. Francis Hospital; discussions with Veterans Affairs; sister properties in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Indiana and Pennsylvania; a meeting with Rhode Island’s governor; and topics ranging from city neighborhood safety to asbestos.

Councilman Tom Smith was curious. How long has Everhardt’s partnership owned these sites?

“We’re under contract to purchase them now,” Everhardt said. “So they haven’t closed yet.”

“So the only one operational is in Indiana?” Smith followed.

“Indiana is a mall. So, it’s a closed Sears, J.C. Penney’s and Parsons,” Everhardt continued. “And we’re only using that for the education program.”

That left Smith wondering.

“So really, you have no facility that is open?”

“We don’t,” Everhardt responded.

The developer explained that he is in uncharted territory.

“This is a new law that just passed. This is under the Mission Act. And so it’s just brand new.

“We own hotels; we have four Hiltons that we own. We have management companies; we’re in the development business. We’re real estate based. So we’ve done lots of projects over the year, but in this veteran space, this is all quite, quite new.”

According to the VA website, the Mission Act “addresses in-network and non-VA healthcare issues, veterans’ homes, access to walk-in VA care, prescription drug procedures and much more.” The program went into effect this month.

Councilman Tim Fulkerson made an observation.

“We have been taken by the best. ... We’ve had more people come here to that podium, and talk to what they were going to do. And they never done it.

“I could decorate half the city with all the pictures and that they brought in artists’ renditions. Everything, OK? And nothing. What has happened, though, is they go away, the property becomes ours.”

Fulkerson fears the city will be stuck with demolition costs.

“I wish that your company would have waited until you got approval from the city before you took UPMC off the hook. ... They got rid of it. They don’t have to worry about it.

“They don’t have to worry about the asbestos removal. They don’t have to worry about nothing. But if your company don’t make it, and you don’t pay the taxes, and that four or five years down the road, I got another Johnson Bronze on my hands. That’s something that we’ll never get enough money from the feds or the state to tear it down and make the property feasible.”

Fulkerson sought a guarantee from Everhardt that his group wouldn’t abandon the property.

That didn’t happen.

“So every month we’re spending money on this,” Everhardt said. “We’re working hard to get this to happen.

“If we don’t get the right zoning, that could happen. If the zoning happens. Well, we’re putting our money in here. And we and I promise you will make the city proud of what we’re going to have.”

Fulkerson said Everhardt’s action put the city in a dilemma.

“I don’t know nothing about you,” he said. “I do know that UPMC got more money than God. OK. And that we had them on the hook.

“The hook was taken out.”

Everhardt said the best path is to think forward.

Council will await city solicitor Jason Medure’s report before voting on his Everhardt’s conditional use request.

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