Last senior leaves closing St. Barnabas apartment complex

Last senior leaves closing St. Barnabas apartment complex

March 24th, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

The downtown Chattanooga St. Barnabas apartment complex closed its doors this week after more than 45 years caring for area seniors.

The last of the more than 100 seniors living in the independent and assisted-living apartments left for other housing Monday. The organization expected to close and sell the property no earlier than May 15, so Monday's early closure was a pleasant surprise to the organization.

Several of the residents said they were shocked and saddened when St. Barnabas announced the pending closure in December.

"It could have gone very badly. I was stressing over it in the early days, but it just kept getting better," said David Wildgen, St. Barnabas's chief executive officer. "There are a lot of resources here in town. I was amazed with how many providers stepped up and helped us."

Knowing that about 100 seniors would all start their searches for housing at the same time spurred most residents to start their housing searches as soon as possible.

"We did encourage them to take their time. We didn't want them to feel like they had to move fast," said Beth Baxter, the apartment manager. "They wanted to get ahead of the curve."

Most of the residents were able to stay in the Chattanooga area, but some moved away to be closer to family. Baxter said many of the residents who had been between independent and assisted living took the opportunity to move to a higher level of care.

"It was a natural transition time," she said.

The apartments sit on the corner of Sixth and Pine streets and were last assessed at more than $3 million. Because they emptied ahead of schedule, Wildgen hopes the sale of the site will move forward faster.

Wildgen declined to comment on the deal's details, but said his organization simply could not sustain the apartments, which operated at a loss of about $25,000 a month. Property taxes alone, which Wildgen said increased dramatically since the apartments opened in 1965, cost the organization about $100,000 a year.

The St. Barnabas board realized the apartments' revenue was not covering expenses about 10 year ago. To keep the apartments afloat, St. Barnabas would have needed to raise $150,000 and double or triple rent in the roughly $1,000 apartments. St. Barnabas still operates a successful rehabilitation and care center adjacent to Siskin Hospital.

Developer John Clark, who represents the parties buying the downtown property, has yet to reveal his plans for the apartments.