Family Health Care Center Opens
Family HealthCare Center opens in former Pence Automobile Company building
If the Pence Automobile Company building had been a patient, its chart might have read “critical.”
When completed in 1920, the handsome Classical Revival-style building boasted three stories and glazed brick with cream-colored terra-cotta trim. It was described at the time as “the best automobile sales and service building in the Northwest.”
But after decades of use as an automobile showroom, an appliance store and a printing plant, many of its original architectural details had been obscured by age and numerous renovations. Its large windows had been removed and filled with plywood, insulation and sheetrock to better suit its one-time function as a commercial printing business. The adjoining buildings, which are 15 to 20 years older than the Pence, were so decrepit that tenants worried about stepping through the floor boards on the second story.
In 2007, Kilbourne Group purchased the former warehouse/showroom and three adjacent buildings to ensure they would be preserved. As founder and chairman of the downtown revitalization group, Doug Burgum is committed to saving historic downtown buildings while infusing them with new vitality and usefulness. The Pence Warehouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, seemed to be the perfect candidate for a real-estate resuscitation.
A ‘win-win’ for all involved
In 2011, Kilbourne Group sold the sturdily built concrete-and-masonry structure and its adjoining buildings to the Family HealthCare Center. Kilbourne Group and the Dakota Medical Foundation also donated a pre-study to start design work and estimate project budget.
The deal was a win-win proposition for all involved. The former auto warehouse, and the block it occupied, saw the promise of new life. The staff at FHC had a chance to work in bigger, better facilities. And, most importantly, more patients — many of whom are underinsured, uninsured or homeless — could benefit from FHC’s expanded services.
Indeed, today’s patients don’t need to cram into makeshift, church-basement clinics or crowded waiting rooms to receive health care. Most exam rooms have huge windows, which fill these modern, spacious areas with warm, natural light.
And because the old Pence was restored with historic tax credits, many of its original attributes have been retained. That includes wonderful details like terrazzo floors, a pink marble staircase with metal-and-wood balustrade, high ceilings and the glazed brick backdrop to the clinic’s welcome desk. (The brick, which is the same as the masonry on the FHC’s exterior, was found in the basement.) Michael J. Burns Architects also designed each floor so the building’s poured concrete pillars could be incorporated seamlessly into the floorplan, but not obscured.
“It’s so nice to be able to serve patients in a beautiful space,” says Samantha Kundinger, FHC’s director of development.”The old clinic was a tired, old, sad space to be.”
FHC outgrows former home
The move to a new facility was long overdue. In the last few years, space limitations prevented FHC staff from treating all the patients who came to the medical clinic. The different services offered by FHC were spread out over different locations, which made it difficult for patients to access when they relied solely on public transportation. The dental clinic had not been able to take on new regular patients for the past two years because of a shortage of space. And FHC’s Homeless Health Services clinic was operating out of a church basement without air conditioning, running water in exam rooms or adequate space for staff offices.
By 2007, FHC staff — led by FHC CEO Patricia Patron — began planning for larger, better facilities to serve patients. Tax credits, including those to encourage historic preservation, helped to finance the project.
The relocation to the 56,000-square-foot Pence and adjoining buildings has doubled the center’s available space. The new structure offers 30 medical exam rooms, a full dental clinic with seven chairs, laboratories, optometry services, radiology, behavioral health specialists and an in-house pharmacy. FHC staff estimate their roomier quarters will allow them to serve an extra 5,000 men, women and children per year.
One of FHC’s core beliefs is that access to high-quality healthcare for those who are most vulnerable improves the health of an entire community, Kundinger says.
That includes Cass County’s refugee population, which grows by 383 New Americans per year. To better serve this more diverse patient base, FHC provides professional medical interpreter services in 12 different languages, plus uses volunteer health mentors to help support New American families in their new home settings.
‘A vision is something you must do’
The FHC began serving patients in fall 2012 and held its grand-opening ceremony in early December.
It was a festive, standing-room-only event, replete with city leaders, proud staff and FHC supporters.
“A dream is something you could do. A vision is something you
must do,” Patron told the crowd. “Turning a dream to a vision can take a long time. For us, the dream is to have a facility that, in a very respectful way, serves those who struggle most.”
Meanwhile, the FHC’s fundraising is in the home stretch. It has raised $14 million of its $15 million price tag through tax credits, grants and contributions. “Now only about 7 percent needs to be raised to finish it off,” Kundinger says. “With that last $1 million out of the way, we will be able to get back to our mission and doing what we do best: providing affordable, quality healthcare.”
To make donations to the Joint Commission-accredited Family HealthCare Center, call Kundinger at 701.271.3344.
Learn more about the FHC at www.famhealthcare.org