Oaklawn buys part of State Farm property in Marshall


MARSHALL — Oaklawn Hospital is expanding to a new neighborhood.

The Marshall hospital signed a deal Monday to buy part of the former State Farm property from the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority. Four parcels — three parking areas and the warehouse facility on the south side of the property — were listed at a cost of $375,000.

The insurance company closed the facility in 2004, eventually taking more than 500 jobs out of Marshall. Since then, the collection of buildings on East Drive between Michigan Avenue and Forest Street have sat empty in a residential neighborhood, a reminder of a once-prosperous time.

“I am happy that this long-vacant, tax-foreclosed property will be put back into productive use,” Calhoun County Treasurer Christine Schauer said in a news release. “This sale will pave the way for further work on the north parcel to get it redevelopment ready, and I am appreciative of our community partners for working collaboratively to breathe life back into these properties.”

According to the release, Schauer, the land bank, the city and the Marshall Area Economic Developent Alliance worked together to determine the fate of the property. The city and the land bank could hold community forums next year to gather input on what to do with the north building.

Oaklawn Executive Director of Development and Community/Legislative Affairs Richard Lindsey said the hospital will use the building at 820 Mann Road for the same purposes State Farm did: storage and some office space. It could see use by late spring or early summer.

“One of the benefits for us using it is we’re going to use it for the same purposes, so we don’t require a zoning change to do that,” Lindsey said. He said the hospital will likely put more than $200,000 into getting the building ready for use.

The warehouse building has 41,591 square feet of space. The other three parcels – parking lots accessible from Michigan Avenue – will be left alone for the time being but are zoned for office space, Lindsey said.

“You can put doctor’s offices, clinics, kind of that traffic-light thing in there,” Lindsey said.

The warehouse building, according to a document detailing Oaklawn’s bid, could be used for IT server space, a recycling center, a print shop and home medical equipment storage. The office space there will be used for hospice management and other jobs that aren’t actually providing health care directly to a patient.

“They would come in the morning,” Lindsey said of the hospice management area, “check in and see what patients they’re going to go see, and take off and go wherever to the patients.”

The main office building on the north side of the property, though, is the face of the former State Farm presence and will continue to be unused for the immediate future. Marshall Mayor Jack Reed said it could be torn down and turned into homes.

“We’ve got people in the industrial park saying they can’t hire people because there’s no place for them to live, that they’re looking for affordable housing and there’s nothing new on the market, there’s nothing new happening,” Reed said. “So we’ve talked to a couple developers about bringing housing in.”

This is another Oaklawn development in Marshall that sees the health care provider planting a foot in outlying areas. In November, the hospital announced plans to put offices in a building at 13444 Preston Drive and lease the rest of the space out as a community center.

For years, the hospital and some Marshall residents were at odds over plans to rezone Oaklawn’s campus at 200 N. Madison St. Some saw it as a threat the historic nature of the neighborhood in which the hospital sits; Oaklawn and others saw its efforts as supporting that neighborhood and the city. The Oaklawn Hospital Campus Overlay District was approved by the Marshall City Council in 2013 and will allow the hospital to grow its footprint on North Madison Street.

“I think it’s partially in response to that,” Lindsey said of Oaklawn’s recent moves to spread out. “There was kind of a change in philosophy.”

Another reason for shifting workers to other sites is that the hospital is reimbursed at a greater dollar amount for medical services that are offered within 250 yards of its main building. Office workers going to places such as the former State Farm property means there’s more space to offer health care at the hospital and create more revenue.

Reed also pointed to the increased tax revenue Marshall will see from the move. While Oaklawn won’t pay taxes to the city for its property on Mann Road, vacating office workers from some of the homes-turned-offices surrounding the hospital will allow those to be sold or rented as homes once again.

“There’s three to five other parcels that are going to go back on the tax rolls because of this move,” Reed said, acknowledging that the State Farm building won’t be a source of revenue for the city. “You try to balance it. Right now, it’s not on the tax rolls. You won’t have it there, but you can gain it elsewhere.”

Source: Battle Creek Enquirer