Newcap. Inc.'s mission for over 50 years has been to move people from poverty to economic security and opportunities and improve communities.
A New Home for Newcap?: Regional anti-poverty agency considers redeveloping old hospital for offices.
By Kent Tempus, USA Today Netowrk-Wisconsin. Printed in the Oconto County Reporter on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017.
The old hospital building in Oconto could end up being a new headquarters for Newcap.
The Oconto-based organization that provides a wide range of services for low-income citizens in northeast Wisconsin has commissioned a feasibility study to determine if the structure could be renovated and how much it would cost.
CEO, Cheryl Detrick said the project not only would provide Newcap much needed space, as it has long since outgrown its offices on Main Street, it would put a vacant and deteriorating - yet historical - building back to use.
"We're trying to fix a community issue with that building just sitting there," Detrick said.
Newcap's board of directors approved spending $40,000 for feasibility study by an architectural/engineering firm to evaluate the condition of the structure, whether it can be renovated and an estimated cost.
The study is to start this week, and Detrick said she hopes to have report within six weeks.
Detrick said the main part of the building served as the original county courthouse for about 30 years before the current courthouse opened in the late 1800s. As a public works project in the 1930s, additions were constructed on both sides.
In the 1960s, there were additions to the back and north sides. Those would be raised if the project moves ahead, she said. The hospital closed in 2002.
Besides serving as Newcap's office, Detrick said the vision for "using that wonderful space" along the river for the public with a public fishing pier and green space. Transient docks could be installed on the river to allow boaters to stop downtown, perhaps using golf carts that are now allowed on city streets.
"That will increase tourism and spur economic development," she said.
Detrick said a rough estimate of the cost of renovation is $4.3 to $4.5 million, though it could run as must a $6 million.
To pay for the project, Newcap would undertake a variety of fundraising efforts. The city of Oconto last week approved a $500,000 grant application on Newcap's behalf that would go toward the cost.
Building a new office would be much cheaper - between $3 million and $4 million - but Detrick said putting a historical structure back into use is worthwhile.
Detrick said the building was one of the first things she noticed after taking the Newcap CEO post about 16 months ago.
"I thought it was a shame, it is just sitting there, and once I learned more about its history, I became more enamored with it," she said. "I would hate someone not taking another shot at it."
Efforts to redevelop the property have proven too costly, such as a few years ago a company proposed turning the site into apartments.
"It's always fizzled out," said Mayor Lloyd Heier. "It's such an expense."
Heier noted hat many people in the community would like to see the building saved and put to use.
"To turn it into something that would be beautiful again, that would be nice for the city," he said.
According to online property tax records, the property is owned by Condominium Oconto River, with a Milwaukee address that is the offices of NAIMLG Commercial, a commercial real estate company. The records show it was purchased in 2009, and has nearly $57,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest due."
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