Former Kelsey Hospital land in Montcalm County to be transferred to village of Lakeview

The village of Lakeview in rural Montcalm County is expected buy the land on which the shuttered Spectrum Health Kelsey Hospital is situated for $1 after the hospital is razed.

The announcement came Thursday in a joint release from the village and Corewell Health, which owns the closed hospital in the village's three-block downtown.

The former hospital, known as Kelsey Hospital by locals, was closed in October. It began more than a century ago when Dr. Lee Kelsey and his wife, Lillian, a registered nurse, began seeing patients in their home in 1908.

The hospital closure saddened and concerned area residents and officials, who worried about the economic impact on downtown businesses and longer drives to obtain emergency medical care.

Lakeview city manager Darin Dood talks about the need for accessibility to affordable health care within the community after the announcement of the closure of the Kelsey Hospital. Residents will now have to travel a half hour to Greenville for emergency care.
Lakeview city manager Darin Dood talks about the need for accessibility to affordable health care within the community after the announcement of the closure of the Kelsey Hospital. Residents will now have to travel a half hour to Greenville for emergency care.

Ellen Bristol, manager of external affairs for Corewell Health, said she did not have a final estimate on the cost for the project.

Village Manager Darin Dood told the Free Press the health care system plans to spend about $750,000 for asbestos abatement, demolition and hauling away debris of the former 41,000-square-foot building.

'Pretty huge' gift to the village of Lakeview

"I hope what people get out of this is that they're the ones paying for the asbestos abatement. They're the ones paying for all of these things," not the village, Dood said of Corewell Health. "That's another $750,000-ish investment into Lakeview."

He added: "Then, they're giving it to us and giving us the opportunity to partner with a developer who doesn't have to spend $750,000 out of the gate to pay for the abatement to tear that building down. I hope that people see this as a gift, because in a way it is ... Giving us a vacant piece of property with nothing on it, to do with it as we please, is pretty huge."

The transfer will not happen until Corewell has abated hazardous materials and demolished the building, according to the release. It states demolition work is expected to start in March and be done by early summer.

The village; Corewell Health; The Right Place, an economic development agency in Grand Rapids; and the Montcalm Economic Alliance collaborated to identify the best use for the site, the news release said. With ownership transferring to the village, it states, "the final decisions for the property's future will be made locally."

"After reviewing the old hospital building, developers and Village officials agreed that the existing building did not offer a canvas from which developers would want to renovate or build onto," according to the release.

"We believe transferring ownership of the land to the Village of Lakeview will allow the local community to decide how the land can best serve the community in the future. Corewell Health is committed to continuing to care for the community in our new Lakeview Care Center," Kristie Smith, chief operating officer of Corewell Health Greenville Hospital, said in the release.

The Lakeview Care Center, a more than $12 million facility that opened in June, is on Michigan Highway 46, more than mile from downtown, but within the village's boundaries.

The new Corewell Health care facility stands Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, along Eastbound M-46 in Lakeview.
The new Corewell Health care facility stands Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, along Eastbound M-46 in Lakeview.

Lakeview Family Medicine relocated to the new care center as did outpatient rehabilitation, a lab, a walk-in clinic and space for specialty care services. Most of these services were located in buildings near the former hospital — blood draws could be done in the hospital — in the village's downtown.

When Kelsey closed, all workers were offered a role with Corewell, and 81 of 109 employees stayed with the health system, Bristol said.

More downtown buildings involved in plan

The closest hospitals to Lakeview now are in Greenville, Big Rapids or Sheridan, each at least a half-hour away depending on weather and traffic on rural roads.

Dood said the former Lakeview Family Medicine building downtown was sold in August, but nothing has gone into the site. Sites near the former hospital that offered a youth clinic and medical specialty services, which were basically at the hospital campus, also are to be razed as part of this plan, he said.

Dood said there is no deadline for the land transfer, but the goal is to have the property vacant by midsummer. Documents are in the works, he said, and the village council will have to give him permission to sign them.

Lakeview's Kelsey Hospital stands Thursday, Aug. 25, 2023, in downtown Lakeview. The 100-year-old hospital is slated for closure after an announcement by Corewell Health. Community members will now have to travel up to 30 minutes for emergency care in neighboring Greenville.
Lakeview's Kelsey Hospital stands Thursday, Aug. 25, 2023, in downtown Lakeview. The 100-year-old hospital is slated for closure after an announcement by Corewell Health. Community members will now have to travel up to 30 minutes for emergency care in neighboring Greenville.

Dood said he is not aware of any provisions or restrictions that would bar the village from using the site as a health care facility. Bristol also was not aware of any restrictions. She did not know whether any prior offers were made on the property.

But a health care facility might not be what goes at the site.

More: As large Michigan health systems merge, independent hospitals are vanishing

Dood said during a bus tour last year, a couple of developers expressed interest in the site — if it was vacant.

He said possible visions for the site could include housing, such as condos or apartments, adding there is a vast housing need in the area, or mixed-use housing and commercial. He has also heard retail space, dance studios and office space as possibilities. He said one facility the community is begging for is day care.

A lively downtown

“Our community has an appetite for growth right now, and I think that’s good,” Dood said.

Dood said he would want developers to bring their vision for the site forward for consideration and to work with the village to make whatever that vision is to become a reality.

He said the downtown is fortunate, as rural communities go, in that it has only a couple of vacant properties, which are in the process of being remodeled. Otherwise, he said, every downtown building is filled.

The village posted the release on its Facebook page Thursday. No one had commented, but the majority of the 42 reactions so far were a "thumbs-up."

Corewell said in the release that in closing the hospital it worked with SIM USA to donate supplies, such as carts, stools, gurneys, bed drapes and more for use where there is a need for medical supplies.

SIM USA does cross-cultural mission work, with workers providing aid in areas including health care, child development, community development, and natural disaster and drought relief, according to its website.

Bristol did not know how many supplies were donated, but said it was the type of equipment without electrical plugs that could be used in locales with different outlets than are used in the United States.

"It was more cost-effective for it to be donated than some of those carts to be disassembled," she said.

Bristol said some supplies and equipment were removed from the former hospital to be used within the health care system.

Contact Christina Hall: chall@freepress.com. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @challreporter.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Here's how much Lakeview will spend for former Kelsey Hospital land