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St. John’s Cathedral wants to buy renovated Carlyle from city

For many residents of the Carlyle Care Center, choices are limited – and often harsh.

Without the Carlyle, Priscilla Shadowens said, “I’d be homeless.”

And Nancy Lund, a former nurse’s aide who has struggled with depression and bipolar disorder, said the Carlyle’s staff has made a huge difference in her life.

“I’m afraid that if I got into my own apartment that I would get depressed, close the curtain and not eat,” Lund said.

But while the Carlyle, which houses as many as 138 people with mental illness or complex medical problems, squeaks out a profit, its finances have been worrisome for the center’s landlord: the city of Spokane.

Help may be on the way, though.

The city bought the Carlyle in 2006 from US Bank for $3.2 million, using federal Department of Housing and Urban Development money, in an effort to prevent it from closing. US Bank took over the building after it foreclosed on the previous owners.

City officials hoped to quickly sell it for the same price to a buyer willing to maintain its mission. But thus far the city has failed to attract a buyer with a sound financial plan, said Allen Schmelzer, a city planner in the Community Development Department.

Now a nonprofit group is raising renewed hopes at City Hall.

St. John’s Properties, a subsidiary of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal church on Grand Boulevard, hopes to buy the Carlyle.

“It just seemed to us the possibility of losing that kind of housing for that kind of population was something that we did not want to see happen,” said the Very Rev. Bill Ellis, dean of the cathedral. “It’s an issue of providing housing for folks who otherwise would be in trouble.”

Ellis said that the recent banking crisis has made it difficult to find a bank willing to loan purchase money, but he remains confident that St. John’s will succeed. Without the need to make a profit, Ellis said, St. John’s could repay the loan with the center’s current income without cutting services.

After paying a company $15,000 a month to oversee the Carlyle, the care center earned about $83,000 in 2008, Schmelzer said. Considering the management fees and profit, the Carlyle earns well over $200,000 a year that St. John’s could use to pay off the $3.2 million purchase price.

The seven-story hotel, built in 1892, was remodeled beginning in 2000 by Jim and Fay Delegans at a cost of more than $12 million. While the center was praised for providing quality care, debt from the renovation hampered the Carlyle and US Bank foreclosed on the building in 2006.

Wendy Coram, the Carlyle’s clinical director, said most residents are charged about $1,700 a month, most of which is covered by Medicaid and similar sources. That works out to less than $60 a day.

Coram said mental health care at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center or Eastern State Hospital works out to several hundred dollars a day.

Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard, who has taken the lead on the county commission on mental health issues, said the city was right to buy the Carlyle. Maintaining the Carlyle saves the mental health system money and makes society safer by providing stability to people in need, he said. “If we didn’t have a place like that, they would be on the street,” Richard said.