2014-08-27 / Front Page

County hears three options for The Pines

by Jazz Clark


Option A of proposed Pines Opportunity Center changes shows the potential all-new top floor. Current tenant Blue Ridge would receive most of the space, which adds a roof terrace and a revamped lobby area. Option A of proposed Pines Opportunity Center changes shows the potential all-new top floor. Current tenant Blue Ridge would receive most of the space, which adds a roof terrace and a revamped lobby area. After numerous issues with the old building known as the Pines Opportunity Center, formerly War Memorial Hospital, the Morgan County Commission has decided to stop putting expensive band-aids on the aging structure.

Faced with a $500,000 price tag to fix the building’s leaky roof, county officials are seeking a permanent solution to the facility’s issues. The commission is very interested in keeping up good relations with building tenants, including Blue Ridge Community and Technical Center, Berkeley Springs Instruments and Catholic radio station WDTF-LP FM, said Commission President Brad Close.

Martinsburg Architect Matt Grove was paid $20,000 by the county commission to analyze the building and explore permanent solutions to upgrade The Pines for future use.

Structural engineers Structural Concepts and mechanical and electrical engineers Comfort Designs, Inc., both of Winchester, contributed to the assessment.

Grove and Dall’Olio last worked in Morgan County in 1996, when the architectural firm designed the transformation of the Johnson House into the Morgan County Public Library.

Last Thursday, Grove laid out several new options for renovation or complete reconstruction of the building, ranging from $2.5 million to $5.3 million. The numbers could change as much as $500,000 either way during actual construction, based on unforeseen circumstances, Grove said at the August 21 meeting.

Grove said the insulation at The Pines is woefully inadequate, so that will be a main focus of any future work there.

“State laws on insulation are very strict,” Grove said.

He set out three options, which he labeled “A,” “B,” and “C.”

Option A

Option A is demolishing the building and all the various additions and starting from scratch with exactly the amount of square footage needed for current operations, Grove said.

Option A had the highest price tag at $5.3 million and the smallest space at 24,700 square feet, making the cost $180 per square foot. The current square footage of the Pines is around 43,000, said officials.

The plan gave Blue Ridge an entire second floor for academic operations. On the ground floor, the option introduces a 2,000-foot space for the Morgan County Health Department and an 1,800-sq. ft. county 911 center. There could be two entrances on the ground floor off the back parking lot.

Grove said a wide rectangular building would fit the current area well, and be a good fit for some passive solar options. The building presently faces south, which would take advantage of natural sunlight for heat, and save some costs in heating during winter months.

Option B

Option B would involve demolishing the oldest section of the building. The three newest wings of the building would be renovated and some new construction would take place on the West end. The final renovated space would total 33,700 square feet.

In that option, Blue Ridge would occupy the second floor for operations. The reason, as Grove explains, is that the load for classroom space is 40 lbs. per square foot, while the load for office space is 50 lbs. per square foot. The lighter building load would go on the upper floor.

West end construction would include upping the space for archival storage and adding some multi-use offices. Thick concrete slabs on the bottom floor would be used to reinforce archive storage.

The funding estimate for that option is $3.5 million.

Option C

Final option was renovation and some selective demolition and no new construction at The Pines. The total square footage would be 25,750 feet — 1,050 more feet than Option A.

The old portion of the building – the Dent house — and old elevator would be demolished, though the 1978 elevator would stay intact to meet American Disability Association requirements, said Grove.

All three staircases could be preserved. The outer appearance of the building could be of stucco, Grove said. Adding an exterior surface would add insulation and change the look of the building.

“We’re trying to reinvent the image of this building away from that of a hospital,” said Grove.

“We need to agree on what we need and don‘t need going forward,” said Commissioner Close. “This can be exciting if we allow it to be exciting. There are ways to not hit the taxpayers as hard as you would assume.”

Work sessions

Close would like to schedule a few work sessions to allow the public to give feedback on possible upgrades at the former hospital. The first, he said, will be at the regularly scheduled commission meeting on September 18. The commission will allow a few hours at least for public comment and discussion.

“We really want the public’s opinion, which is why we did not lean in any one direction today,” said Close.

County do the work?

Commissioner Bob Ford suggested the county stretch the construction over a period of 4-5 years to minimize county debt, and use county maintenance employees for much of the work.

“The county could act as the general contractor,” said Ford. “We might even make some county jobs along the way.”

Close had some concerns over tying up county resources for many years, and worries the community and tenants could become impatient with longterm construction.

Ford said government employees in the early 1900’s had the foresight to build a vault for government documents. Grove was able to access information and diagrams on the various stages of construction throughout the last 120 years.

“We can now better understand what’s going on behind the walls of that house, thanks to hundreds of drawings,” Grove said.

Pines history

Grove said the original Dent house - the center of the structure - was built in the 1880’s.

At that time the structure was made of wood and heated by wood. Insulation was non-existent, he said.

The Dent residence became a home and rehabilitation center for crippled children in 1932. The first addition was tacked on the main house in 1938, a stark brick structure that contained very little insulation.

“It stood in very sharp contrast against the rest of the house,” Grove said.

The healing powers of the Warm Springs were part of the The Pines use as a polio hospital and led to a visit in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The building transitioned to a general purpose hospital in the late 1940’s.

“The Dent House was eventually swallowed up by all these new additions, and the rehabilitation spa got filled up with concrete,” explained Grove.

In 1963, another addition was made. A 1978 wing added patient rooms. Grove said at that point, the building received some decent insulation. Other than discoloration of brick from water dripping down the building, Grove said this section is in decent shape.

The newest section was built in 1993, and features quality modern construction and few structural issues. He said the section will likely require little renovation.

In 2012, a new War Memorial Hospital was built on Fairview Drive and The Pines became vacant.

In April 2013, Berkeley Springs Instruments moved their technological research company into the building. The company has worked with pipeline technology on the first floor of The Pines for well over a year.

WDTF-LP FM, a local Catholic radio station, also occupies the building, using the already-existing antenna to broadcast their message.

Blue Ridge Technical College signed a contract in July 2013 to use space to offer local college courses. Technical classes have been taught on the second floor of the Pines ever since, with Morgan County as an official Blue Ridge campus.

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