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Publish Date: 8/29/2005

1252 Frontier Dr. is a property owned by Longmont United Hospital. The property was purchased for $153,000 in 1998. Times-Call/Lewis Geyer

LUH keeps future in mind as residential landlord

LONGMONT — Longmont United Hospital’s mission has nothing to do with managing residential properties.

But since 1997, it has purchased three one-story ranch-style homes within a block of its front doors and rented them.

According to the Boulder County Assessor’s Web site, the nonprofit hospital spent $123,500 in 1997 to buy the house at 2005 Mountain View Ave.; $153,000 in 1998 for 1252 Frontier Dr.; and $238,000 in 2002 for 1246 Frontier Dr. — $28,500 more than its value today.

The $514,500 investment boils down to a land-hold for potential expansion at LUH, a nonprofit hospital with a $121 million operating budget this year, LUH spokesman Matt Hartzler said.

“It’s all a matter of the hospital keeping an eye on what the community demands are,” he said. “(Then, it was) let’s get that land and let’s hold onto it in case we need to expand in the future.”

However, since LUH’s last home purchase, off-campus acquisitions have been tabled by multiple on-campus expansion projects.

A $25 million bond paid for the five-story tower completed in 2000; and a $29 million bond funded expansion and renovation of the hospital’s birthplace, intensive-care unit and surgery center. That work was completed in 2002.

By 2008, a $39 million expansion — approved earlier this month — will double the emergency department and pay for a new central plant for the hospital’s heating, cooling and electrical systems.

“These expansions allow us to go vertical,” Hartzler said.

LUH has no immediate plans to go horizontal by buying more residential properties, he added. But unless the seller’s market improves, the hospital has no plans to sell the three homes, either.

Though not moneymakers, Hartzler said, they break even and free up expansion options down the road.

If that time comes, zoning could make the purchases moot because all three neighboring homes are in an area zoned for low-density residential.

Neither hospitals nor medical offices may establish themselves there without first undergoing public hearings before the planning and zoning commissioners and City Council to secure a land-use amendment and rezoning permit, according to Froda Greenberg, the city of Longmont’s principle planner.

“We haven’t checked into the zoning, and we haven’t checked because we haven’t said we intend to put x, y or z function there,” Hartzler said.

In the meantime, LUH has hired Insight Properties of Longmont to manage the three residences.

Some neighbors have complained about the upkeep — namely the brown, threadbare lawns and trash build-up at two of the three properties. But Hartzler said no complaints had been brought to his attention, and the hospital has no immediate change-of-plans.

“It’s not on the forefront of anybody’s mind,” he said. “The properties are not an area of focus. They’re not a discussion point, and they’re not in our strategic development plan at this time.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.


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