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Editorial: New St. Francis facility valuable to community

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WHen Alpine Electronics moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico, the fate of its factory building was unclear. Now that longtime vacant property on the east side of Greenwood has been given new life thanks to a major health and hospital group.

The abandoned factory has been reborn as the administrative center for Franciscan St. Francis Health. Hospital officials have renovated the building, creating workspace for departments such as billing, marketing and scheduling. Offices and cubicles have been constructed for 360 employees. Classrooms and training labs will serve 100 students daily.

Renovation work started in April and will continue through the rest of the year before the building is completely done, said John Ross, former hospital vice president of human resources and current project consultant.

The building had been vacant since 2006. The Alpine Electronics plant opened in 1986, manufacturing car audio and navigation systems for major automakers such as Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mercedes Benz and BMW. The company moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico in 2004 and shifted its business operations to a smaller space in Greenwood in 2006.

Many potential businesses looked at the space but passed it over throughout the years. Franciscan St. Francis officials were interested in the site because of its proximity to the main Indianapolis campus, as well as the possibility to add value to the Greenwood community.

But the building was in serious disrepair.

“When we came into it, it had been flooded. It had been mold infested. The roof was leaking,” Chief Operating Officer Keith Jewell said. “We got into this facility and basically had to start from scratch.”

Franciscan St. Francis Health has spent about $14 million in refurbishing and equipping the building. New electronics, telephones, walls, carpeting and decorating have gone into the project. But much of the furniture, computers and other equipment came from the health group’s Beech Grove building.

Each department is housed in cubicles situated in an open-floor layout. Designers wanted the open layout, with just 19 private offices in the building. The decision was intended to encourage interaction and ease of communication, Jewell said. Individual areas for copying, printing and faxing, as well as conference rooms of different sizes, provide each department with autonomy, he said.

The addition to the Greenwood business community will help strengthen a developing section of the city and ideally serve as a spark for other businesses in that area, said Christian Maslowski, executive director of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

“The Emerson corridor is strategically important to our economic development and our growth, particularly to our eastern growth,” he said. “Having a stable tenant who’s very much invested in the economic stability of this section of Johnson County is a win for everyone.”

We agree. Franciscan St. Francis Health could have built a new building at many locations. The health group made a significant commitment to Greenwood by redeveloping the Alpine Electronics building. It will be a valuable and valued community asset for generations.

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