Old Obici to be razed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Obici Hospital’s Board of Directors on Monday refused a buyer’s offer for its former building on North Main Street and instead voted to demolish the structure.

Sam Glasscock, chairman of the board, confirmed that the board did turn down Atlanta businessman John Johnson’s offer to buy the building. Glasscock declined to elaborate on specific details, only saying that the board believed it in the best interest of the hospital to raze the old building.

Efforts to reach Johnson, the prospective buyer, were unsuccessful Monday night.

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&uot;Our decision was motivated by the lack of success selling the building and the expense of maintaining it each month,&uot; said Glasscock. &uot;The property has been for sale for three years. The board believes more interest in the property would be generated once the demolition is complete.

&uot;Obici has been paying approximately $60,000 per month for maintenance and security at the former site since moving to its new building last April. That continuing cost is not prudent.&uot;

Demolishing the hospital is also breaking the hearts on Suffolk residents who spent much of their careers in the halls of the original Obici building.

&uot;It breaks my heart to see it go,&uot; said Margaret Smith, who spent 26 years as the admissions/recruitment officer for the Louise Obici School of Professional Nursing. &uot;I know Mr. Obici put it and the school there to serve the Suffolk community. …I hate to see it go.&uot;

Allen Faircloth, the pharmacist who joined the hospital when it opened in 1951, agreed.

&uot;It saddens me. A part of me is in that (old) hospital and when that is gone, the part of me that is associated with Obici is gone,&uot; Faircloth said.

&uot;I understand now that we needed a new hospital but I don’t understand why it is necessary to tear down a 50-year-old building,&uot; he continued. &uot;I feel sure that building could be used for something.&uot;

All buildings on the 22-acre property are scheduled for demolition.

&uot;We believe that the property will be easier to sell if the buildings are leveled,&uot; said Betsy Mason of Advantis Real Estate Services Co., which is listing the property.

&uot;Our experience suggests that buyers will have more interest once the buildings are demolished.&uot;

Thomas A. O’Grady, Suffolk’s economic development director, said the buildings would be difficult and expensive to renovate. &uot;The hospital is an old building with small rooms and an inefficient layout,&uot; he said. &uot;There is no flexibility. However, the site is excellent for an office/retail center.&uot;

Obici has hired D. H. Griffin Wrecking Co. of Greensboro, N.C. to demolish the buildings. Founded in the l950s, Griffin is the largest demolition company in the southeastern United States. The Company has demolished medical buildings in Charlotte and Atlanta, in addition to other types of buildings throughout the country.

Griffin also will remove the asbestos from the buildings and dispose of all materials according to government regulations.

The project is expected to take five months.