Bill Quinn, spokesman
for the state Treasury Department, told the Daily Record the Treasury
Department is still open to ideas about how the remaining historic buildings at
Greystone could be saved. But after reviewing the six formal expressions of
interest it received in the spring, the state still does not see a way to make
redevelopment a feasible alternative. Quinn said there was a funding gap of $11
million to $25 million dollars that the state would have to make up.
'Surprised' By State's Position
Greystone Community Innovation, one of several development groups who submitted a proposal to the state of New Jersey to undertake the redevelopment of the old Greystone Psychiatric Hospital property, has expressed surprise that state officials are passing up an opportunity to preserve the historic Kirkbride Building in a way that saves the taxpayers' money.
“We were surprised to read in the news media that the State’s Treasury Department is now thinking of paying to demolish the building, though we’re glad to hear that this decision isn’t set in stone. We remain interested in this project, and would be happy to address any concerns about the particulars of our proposal,” said Victoria Zelin, coordinator of the Greystone Community Innovation proposal team.
Zelin said that their proposal would require not additional funds, other than the remediation funds previously set aside back in 2011.
“We have a team with extensive adaptive reuse experience in exactly this kind of property, and a private investor group willing to finance up to $120 million to pay for the work. But we were never even contacted by the Treasury Department after we submitted our proposal,” Zelin said. “We are not looking for any state aid or subsidy, only for the remediation work they are already committed to doing.”
Greystone, built in 1876, was constructed as part of the Kirkbride Plan, according to the Kirkbride Building website. The plan, championed by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride in the med-19th century, advocated moving patients from county jails, private homes and basements of public buildings into state mental hospitals. These hospitals followed a typical floor plan that included long rambling wings staggered so each connected wing received sunlight and fresh air that was meant to promote privacy and comfort for patients. The building form itself was meant to have a curative effect.
Other Asylums Saved
Other Kirkbride Asylums have found public-private partnerships for rehabilitation and have been successful. The historic Kirkbride building in Fergus Falls, Minn is in the midst of a $41 million dollar overhaul by Georgia-based Historic Properties Inc., a company with 30 years of experience redeveloping historic properties around the country. Their plan includes a 60-unit apartment complex, a 120-room boutique hotel complete with conference and lounge space as well as indoor/outdoor pool and spa amenities, a health club for hotel guests and tenants, an 83,000-square-foot eatery section and office space for property managers and employees.In Buffalo the rehabilitation of the historic Richardson Olmsted Complex continues with completion set for 2016, along with a previously announced boutique hotel, event and conference center and architecture center.
A volunteer board of local and national members established by then-Gov. George E. Pataki has spent seven years working to reverse the state of neglect. The stabilization and turnaround efforts required a huge investment, with $76.5 million in state funds available. What is re-emerging as a result of a public-private partnership is the grand vision by building and landscape architects whose work is still revered.
Options on the Table
In New Jersey, the state has posted six proposals they’ve vetted online and they include two groups that claim to have full funding in place. Auto Mart, Inc., the company behind the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV (another Kirkbride building), wants to convert the place into a museum and paranormal tour program.
Other plans include a business center that includes a working farm, renewable energy, tourism, recreation and education programs. Greystone Community Innovation's initial proposal includes housing, hospitality, alternative energy, and space for emerging technology businesses.
"Our process works with the surrounding community to create something unique and beneficial, with an emphasis on environmentally friendly practices. We look forward to discussions with the State, and with Greystone's neighbors,” Zelin said.
So it appears there are many suitors for the landmark property on the border Morris Plains-Parsippany formerly known as the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Morristown. It all depends on whether a dowry can be agreed upon.