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Valley Voice 10 Years Developer Resuscitated Old Hospital Into Home For Valley Senior Citizens

Thu., March 26, 1998

The majestic brick building stands proudly, betraying no secret of its past lives and former struggles.

Outside, senior citizens enjoy leisurely walks on the large, well-kept grounds. Inside, they dine with linen napkins, crystal goblets and fresh flowers on their tables.

The Park Place Retirement Community has been a dreamcome-true for developer Harry Green, and for the surrounding Edgecliff community.

For years, as a teenager and young adult, Green watched his own father deteriorate in a rest home. And for years, neighbors in the Edgecliff neighborhood watched the once impressive brick building on Park Road deteriorate into an unkempt, vandalized shell that police even refused to enter.

Just 10 years ago, the former tuberculosis hospital remained boarded up. Inside, vandals had smashed every mirror and glass fixture, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of furnishings and medical equipment.

None of the many offers to buy the building had stuck. Some residents wondered if it would have to be demolished.

But in 1991, Green, who had vowed to improve the quality of facilities available to the elderly, launched an effort to give the old hospital a new life.

When Park Place opened the following year, senior housing was in short supply in the Valley - and waiting lists were long.

Today, those trying to compete in the long-term care industry say there are too many choices, and too much senior housing available in the Valley, especially in assisted living facilities. These newly popular facilities offer private apartments, as well as assistance with daily activities.

While bad for the businesses, it’s been a great development for senior citizens, Green said.

“I’m very excited that seniors now have choices,” said the developer, who plans to break ground on a new retirement project on the Palouse Highway in April. “And I’m extremely proud of Park Place.”

The history of what is now Park Place dates back to 1915, when Spokane County first opened the Edgecliff Hospital. The county needed a facility away from town to deal with the growing problem of tuberculosis, a deadly disease spread by coughing, sneezing or even breathing.

At the time, treatment consisted of “good food, fresh air and bed rest,” sometimes for as long as 15 years. To assure fresh air, patients slept on screened porches year-round, sometimes waking to find snow on their beds.

But with the discovery of TBfighting antibiotics in the 1940s, the hospital began losing patients. It finally closed in 1978, when funding dried up. The building continued to house a private alcohol treatment center until 1981. After that, it sat unused, although it still contained much of the furniture and medical equipment from years past.

Over time, thieves wrecked the building, stealing most everything of value, scrawling satanic messages and leaving behind booby-traps made from fireworks.

But with the help of a $4 million federal loan, Green had the building gutted, keeping the beautiful brick exterior intact. Park Place opened in 1992 with 117 apartments for independent seniors. It has since expanded to include 63 assisted-living apartments and 32 units for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Park Place now competes with about a dozen assisted living boarding homes and more than 80 adult family homes in the Valley alone. Even so, it has just a handful of open units, said Constance O’Hara, resident service director.

The Valley also has four nursing homes, which provide a higher level of medical care than Park Place.

It’s a different world, Green said, than the one he vividly remembers from his own childhood. Back then, the elderly and ill chose between the rest home and the poor farm.

“It’s a fabulous change,” Green said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos


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