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Former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital's fate may be known in January

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By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Jeannette and state officials say they hope to learn by January whether a developer will take over the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital and convert it into an office park for several businesses, adding about 200 jobs in the financially distressed city.

City Attorney Scott Avolio said the deal hinges on how much it will cost JH Capital Group of California to renovate the structure, which is owned by Excela Health of Greensburg and has been closed since 2011.

“I have no more knowledge about the deal than I had a couple of weeks ago,” said Avolio, who is awaiting a decision from JH Capital's board of directors.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, said she also expects a decision in January.

“They have some time and money invested in it,” she said. “These buildings are always a big challenge. I hope Excela and other parties involved in this bend over backwards to alleviate one problem in Jeannette.”

Ward said there is a local connection to the deal.

JH Capital is managed by CEO Douglas Jacobsen. His partner in the proposed project is Henry Kravetz, chairman of the board. Kravetz is married to the former Glenda Hankins Kravetz, a 1965 graduate of Ligonier Valley High School.

Jeff Rega, who is the asset manager for Realty Bancorp, which is owned by Kravetz, is a 1982 graduate of Jeannette High School and the University of Pittsburgh.

Ward said the developer was made aware of the potential of renovating the former hospital through Kravetz.

“I knew they got here through the (connection) in Ligonier,” she said.

Officials at Excela and JH Capital have signed a confidentiality agreement and cannot discuss the project. There are concerns among city officials that the longer the building remains idle, the more costly it will be to renovate the structure. The hospital was founded in 1959.

Excela has publicly committed to demolishing the building if a buyer can't be found because, it said, it will not allow it to turn into another eyesore like the nearby Monsour Medical Center on Route 30.

If Jacobsen and Kravetz decide to abandon their plans, the financial impact could hurt the county, city and school district. Excela won a reduction in its tax assessment in 2012, which is being appealed.

Avolio said an appeal is on hold. The county Tax Assessment Board reduced the health care system's tax liability by more than $140,000. He said the parties agreed to stay the appeal until Jacobsen decides if he will assume ownership of the building, which includes the hospital building, a medical office building and a parking garage.

The school district stands to lose $85,000 if the appeal is denied while the cash-strapped city faces a $35,000 loss of tax revenue. Westmoreland County would lose $21,000.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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