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The Guest House finds a new home
The Guest House activities director Sandy Pearson, right, laughs with client Kathryn Parker. - photo by Tom Reed

After nearly two years of looking for a new home, The Guest House has found a place to call its own.

Dana Chapman, executive director for The Guest House, said she expects to be able to move into the new building at 360 Oak St., Gainesville, in mid-April, ahead of a May 1 deadline to be out of its old site.

The former second-floor office building will require a few modifications to suit the needs of the center, but those changes aren’t expected to take more than a few weeks. The center is now waiting for its building permits to be approved by the city.

A new driveway from Oak Street is planned to allow easier access to the building. It also will need two new restrooms, a water heater and new flooring. A few walls will need to be torn down to make the layout more conducive to a patient-care setting.

Chapman said the property owner has agreed to loan the center the amount it needs to make the renovations interest free so it is able to complete the projects before the guests come to stay in the building.

Chapman said the center will pay enough rent to cover the cost of taxes and insurance for the property owner for the first year. The amount the center pays will gradually increase over the next five years.

Chapman called the building a “huge gift.” She said everyone at the center is excited for the move and glad the anxiety surrounding the looming eviction has dissolved.

“I’m very excited to not have to worry about being evicted or anything,” said Debbie Powell, social services director.

Powell said the open space will give the staff more visibility and help everyone feel more connected.

“The patients are excited,” Chapman said. “The ones that can remember and know that we are moving are excited. ... They’re excited for the change but they also want to know they’ve got their bearings.”

Chapman said that in treating patients with dementia, it’s important to keep things and activities familiar. She said the staff will operate on the same routine and use the same items, games and furniture as in the past.

“Of course it’ll take a while to get adjusted,” Chapman said. “But I think once they start to see some of the same activities and hear the same music and their routine of the day starts to kick in, they’ll adjust.”

Chapman said she was thankful for the community’s support during the last few months. She said people have come from all over asking to help.

Dr. Jeff Payne, a local ophthalmologist and the property owner, heard about the center’s need for a new building after reading an article in The Times.

“I don’t normally read something and respond to it,” Payne said. “But I was sort of led to call them because I felt like that building would be a good location for them.”

The building was already for sale or rent, and Payne said he wanted to see it put to good use.

He said he has a special place in his heart for older people because he sees so many of them as patients in his practice. He said he wanted to do something to help the center and give back to a population that has supported him over the years.

“I think the Guest House does a big service for people,” Payne said. “I hope that more families of seniors will learn about it and be able to use (its) facilities. As we grow older and our population ages, services like this are going to become more and more important.”

The Guest House had operated rent-free out of a Housing and Urban Development building in Tower Heights apartments in Gainesville for more than 20 years.

The center’s lease expired in 2005. Since then, the organization had tried to negotiate a new lease that would allow it to stay until it was able to gather funds and find a new facility.

In November, the adult day center that serves patients with dementia was served with an eviction notice. The center reached an agreement in December through the court with the housing authority to postpone its relocation until May 1, allowing it reasonable time to find a suitable facility and relocate.t