Bill before Minnesota Legislature would allow sale of Chris Jensen buildingNow renting, HDG looks to buy and expand its operations at the site.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
St. Louis County could sell the Chris Jensen nursing home in Duluth to a private company without going through the usual public auction process, if legislation introduced at the Capitol passes.
The legislation would allow the county to negotiate with Twin Cities-based Heath Dimensions Group to sell the building that HDG has been renting since November 2009. The bill also allows the sale of additional acres at the same site.
HDG has been operating the health and rehabilitation center under an agreement in which it pays the county $50,000 rent per year. County officials handed over operations of the facility after years of subsidizing Chris Jensen when revenues didn’t meet expenses. Since then, the company has invested its own money in the building and operations and says it is turning a profit. Staff at the facility, formerly county employees, are now HDG employees.
Since 2009, HDG officials have said they want to use the rehabilitation facility as a center point for a larger campus of senior citizen living facilities. The company at first looked elsewhere in the
Duluth area, but now appears focused on the Chris Jensen site for any expansion.
“The current location has a lot to offer,” said David Briscoe, co-founder and principal of the company.
The legislation allows up to 22 acres of county land to be sold to HDG, including the Chris Jensen building and additional open land between the existing building and Rice Lake Road. Kevin Gray, county administrator, said county officials have had “very preliminary” discussions with HDG on building the senior campus at the site.
That campus would include an assisted living, independent living and memory care facilities to cover a range of needs among older residents in the region. The existing nursing home and rehabilitation facility also would continue.
Briscoe said the expansion won’t be decided for several months as the company looks harder at the demand for senior living in the Twin Ports area and at the details of borrowing money for the multimillion-dollar project.
“We’ll know more after the legislation is decided … and after we check out the market situation a little harder,” he said.
Briscoe said it also makes more sense for HDG to own the building, especially as it makes capital investments and additions to the 170-bed facility.
Gray said the legislation, which is one of the county’s 2012 legislative priorities, “gives us the option to sit down with HDG and see if this is where they want to expand, and to see if we can work out a fair and equitable deal.”
“This would be very good news, both for the existing jobs at Chris Jensen but also possibly adding jobs, if that’s the route that HDG ultimately decides to pursue,” Gray said.
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Dave Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, in the House (HF2022) and DFL Sens. Dave Tomassoni of Chisholm and Tom Bakk of Tower (SF1625).