Trabert Hall, which has served a number of community purposes, from nursing school dorm to probation offices, will be transformed into a modern home for some of CenterPointe’s services to people with mental illness and addiction.
The Lancaster County Board on Tuesday approved the sale of the building at 2202 S. 11th St. to the nonprofit agency for $400,000, a low price that allows CenterPointe to afford to rehabilitate the four-story building, with a garden basement.
The commissioners tentatively agreed in May to negotiate the sale with CenterPointe for about $500,000 less than they could have gotten from a private developer who wanted to turn the building into apartments for working people.
After several months of negotiation, commissioners voted 3-2 to finalize the sale, which gives CenterPointe 24 months to raise the money it needs for renovation and includes a buy-back provision if the fundraising isn't successful.
The agreement with the county provides that CenterPointe will pay $400,000 initially and another $100,000 after the two-year period if it is successful in raising the $10 million for renovation work.
If CenterPointe fails to raise enough money, the county has the option to buy back the building for the $400,000.
The agreement is also contingent on CenterPointe selling its current outpatient clinic at 1000 S. 13th St.
Two commissioners, Deb Schorr and Todd Wiltgen, voted against the agreement, because they wanted more assurances about future programs.
Schorr said the sale, for far less than the building's value, was a taxpayer gift, with no guarantee of services. She had wanted a commitment that CenterPointe would serve people coming out of jail and the Regional Center.
There are a number of nonprofit agencies in the county that could have used this gift to serve more people, she said.
"Technically, this is an indirect subsidy to a nonprofit, a good one, one of our best," said Wiltgen. But the county failed to get guarantees that the agency would serve specific unmet county needs, he said.
However, the three commissioners who supported the sale, Bill Avery, Roma Amundson and Jennifer Brinkman, said the sale of Trabert Hall to CenterPointe is good use of county funding.
"I am eager to support this transaction. It provides a profoundly important service to a population in this city that is underserved," Avery said.
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"I would not describe this as a gift but a continuation of a partnership that the county has had for over 40 years," Brinkman said.
CenterPointe plans to get the bulk of the $10 million it will cost to renovate the building from a variety of low-income tax credits and related financing.
The agency will likely raise $1 million to $2 million through donations, the first capital campaign in the 45-year history of the agency, said Topher Hansen, CenterPointe president and CEO.
The garden-level basement and first two floors will become an outpatient behavioral health clinic, a medical clinic and offices. The top two floors would be apartments for clients, Hansen said.
The medical clinic will serve the broader community and be available for CenterPointe clients.
Given the limitations of the building, architects say it will be less expensive to gut the building and build it back, Hansen said.
The outside will remain the same except for the entrance. There are 14 steps to climb to get up to the first floor, and there is no easy alternative entrance. So the remodeling will include some kind of addition on the front that blends well but allows everyone to access the facility, he said.
The building will include a state-of-the-art health care facility that can address the needs not only of the neighborhood but the city as a whole, Hansen said.
CenterPointe will be able to provide more robust services by combining physical and behavioral health, and the agency will also have room to grow in Trabert Hall, he said.
CenterPointe serves almost 3,000 clients a year in Lincoln and Omaha, with a $12.6 million budget and a staff of around 220 people, Hansen said.
The four-story Trabert Hall was originally used as dorms for nursing students before St. Elizabeth Hospital moved to its location on 70th Street.
It has been used for various county offices for almost 50 years but has been empty since adult probation offices were moved to the renovated former county jail at 605 S. 10th St. more than a year ago.