GOSHEN — Maple City Health Care Center received approval Tuesday, Sept. 24, for variances that will allow it to open a second facility in the “Abshire mansion” on the north side of the city.
Several people representing the project appeared before Goshen’s Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday to ask for a use variance that will allow a medical office in a residential area, as well as a developmental variance to allow access through a residentially zoned area and a parking space variance.
Several in attendance were concerned about turning an historical landmark into a medical office.
“I have seen over the years so many of our historical landmarks disappear,” said Thomas Riggs of Goshen.
Barry Pharis of Brads-Ko Engineering and Surveying, who spoke for the petition, stated that the building at 803 N. Main St. was going to be sold, no matter what.
“Fourth Freedom Forum is going to sell it,” Pharis explained. “It could be a grocery store, it could be apartment buildings, it could be a drug store.”
“It could also be a cul-de-sac of single family houses, crowding out all the green space there,” he continued. “I can assure (the board) and the public that visually, this site is going to remain looking like the Abshire mansion.”
Pharis argued that the plan put forth by the health care center was the best option to preserve the Abshire mansion’s history and structural integrity.
Dr. James Nelson Gingerich of the Maple City Health Care Center concurred, adding that he does not want to make any changes that would compromise the building’s integrity either externally or internally.
“It’s a gorgeous facility,” Gingerich said. “Part of what we want is the sense is that this treasure in the midst of our north Goshen neighborhood becomes something that is really available for the neighborhood, serves the neighborhood.”
Gingerich said the only major changes will be to the addition added a few decades ago by Fourth Freedom Forum, the current owners.
As part of the project, Maple City Health Care Center plans to maintain the large green space to the south of the building as a public space. Gingerich said he envisions some seating and gardens but wants to keep the area undeveloped.
A handful of neighbors, center staff and patients spoke of the center administration’s integrity in believing that they will maintain the building as it stands.
They also noted that Maple City Health’s current Middlebury Street facility is getting crowded and the need for another facility.
Pharis added that the new facility will likely create 25 new positions within the organizations when it opens, including medical, social and support staff.
The new facility will offer access either off of Third Street or Wilden Avenue. However, the health care center prefers the Third Street access.
There are also plans for a 17-space parking lot on the site, with an additional 13 spots shared with a church near the facility.
In the meeting, it was also explained that IU Health Goshen will actually be purchasing the property and leasing it to Maple City Health Care Center.
“This kind of fell into our laps,” Gingerich explained. “It’s an opportunity to expand our capacity.”