LORAIN — The old Gel-Pak building at 1205 Broadway has come a long way since November 2011.
Twenty months worth of work came to fruition on Monday as the new headquarters of the Lorain County Health & Dentistry was dedicated at a 9 a.m. ceremony.
“The total renovations cost about $8.5 million,” said Stephanie Wiersma, president and chief executive officer of Lorain County Health & Dentistry. “It was well worth it.”
More than 100 people attended the ceremony to officially open the headquarters.
“We’ve been seeing patients and using the building since May 20,” Wiersma said. “This is the dedication, but not the grand opening.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer and Vice President of the National Association of Community Health Centers Shawn Frick were all in attendance and spoke at the ceremony.
Brown stressed the importance of the employees within the building and the impact that they and the building will have on the younger generation.
“This is way more than a building,” Brown said. “All of the health care workers here make such a difference.”
The new headquarters for LCH&D has been years in the making according to Brown.
“When the recovery act passed in 2009, one of the things we insisted on was the expansion of federally qualified health centers,” Brown said. “We insisted that we have a real emphasis on pediatric dentistry.”
Brown continued to praise Wiersma, saying that she was the driving force in Lorain for pediatric dental care, as well as increased dental care in general.
“It’s amazing the advantages that young people entering the work force can have simply because they have received proper health and dental care as a youth,” Brown said.
Ritenauer spoke on how the new LCH&D headquarters can only be a positive for the city.
“For the city of Lorain, this project is without question a huge win for everyone involved in the city of Lorain, as well as the city itself,” Ritenauer said. “You could see the problems that abandoned buildings bring to the city, and this building was one of them.”
The mayor said that he believes that the headquarters can serve as a symbol for the city.
“Now, the building is looking better than ever, and in my mind it serves as a symbol of what can happen when buildings that have fallen on hard times meet with collaboration and big ideas,” he said. “This a symbol in my mind of what is great things to come on Broadway.”
The new headquarters means expanded space and expanded possibility, Wiersma said.
“There are just so many possibilities moving forward,” she said. “We plan on adding new staff, such as a pediatric dentist and a nurse midwife.
Wiersma also commented on the potential for new health offerings, such as a vision clinic, a fully integrated behavioral health clinic and a full-time phlebotomy lab.
“This place was built with a plan for expansion,” she said. “That is why we decided to keep the fourth floor shelled. It’s a large space for any future expansion we may plan.”
The building has 32,000 square feet of exam rooms, office spaces and work stations for 40 staff. Lorain County Health & Dentistry will add 22 professional and support staff over the next two years that will allow the agency to see up to 7,500 more patients, according to Wiersma.
The project is being paid with a $6 million federal capital development grant; $2 million in federal and state new markets tax credits; and a bank loan of $750,000 from Lorain National Bank, Wiersma said.
Lions Clubs in north central Ohio also are raising $254,000 to pay for the vision clinic that will open later this year.
“We have already raised $220,000,” said Ken Cromer, chairman of the Vision Clinic Project for the Lorain Lions Club, District 13B.
Cromer said that the vision clinic is completely in line with the mission on the Lions Club.
“Back in 1925, Helen Keller issued a challenge to our club at its annual meeting,” Cromer said. “She challenged us to be knights of the blind. A vision clinic seems to fit in perfectly with that challenge.”