By Daniel Axelrod
MONTICELLO – Sullivan County’s largest employer plans to grow even bigger by building a hospital, research center and educational space.
Leaders at the Center for Discovery hope to use a $1 million grant awarded Wednesday as part of a $25 million project to transform the former Frontier Insurance building in Rock Hill by 2020. Center staff, caregivers and researchers for individuals with complex developmental disabilities, are negotiating to buy the 160,000-square-foot building from the state.
The Center’s plans call for 10 classrooms on the first floor, a second-floor sub-acute care specialty hospital for individuals with disabilities, and a third-floor research center – a newly created Research Institute for Brain and Body Health. Center researchers are known in academic and health circles for conducting cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary research studying autism, dementia, ADHD and other brain disorders.
“The Center for Discovery enriches lives and empowers people,” said outgoing Sen. John Bonacic, at the Center’s Monticello offices, after announcing the state Transportation, Infrastructure and Economic Development grant. “It’s a place where miracles occur.”
Center leaders are negotiating to buy the Frontier building from the New York Liquidation Bureau, which took over the insurance business in the early 2000s, following Frontier’s massive losses. The Bureau wound down Frontier and closed it in 2013, leaving a prime Sullivan County building vacant.
If negotiations fall through, the Center’s leaders said they would build a slightly smaller hospital and research center for about the same price next to the nonprofit’s Discovery Health Center, said Center president and CEO Patrick Dollard. That building, at 606 Old Route 17 in Monticello, is a primary and specialty care clinic.
“We’re tremendously excited in Thompson about bringing back vibrancy and decent-paying jobs to the Rock Hill area,” said Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber. The Center “is going to bring in highly skilled people to run this facility, and it’s going to diversify the employment opportunities beyond recreational jobs.”
Already an economic engine for the county – disbursing $77.14 million in wages to its 1,650 employees, generating $102 million in direct economic output, and paying $3.2 million in state and local taxes in 2016 – the nonprofit plans to add 400 employees by 2020.
If the Center’s leaders strike a deal with state officials before year’s end, renovations on the Frontier building would begin immediately, while ground would be broken for the backup building sometime next year, Dollard said.
Plans for the Frontier building call for a roughly 45,000-square-foot, 18-bed hospital, with room for future expansion, an equal amount of space for a research center, plus approximately 10,000 square feet of first-floor educational space. One hundred staff members would occupy the new facility, which would annually serve 160 patients, ages 5 to 21, with each patient generally staying 30 to 90 days.
At Wednesday’s grant announcement, Dollard said he is grateful for Bonacic’s help and thankful for “my staff because they’re brilliant … and with their energy behind me, I feel like we could conquer the planet.”