By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
EVERETT — The place is a wreck and has been for years.
The former Virginia Manor nursing home has been closed and standing empty since 1996. A target for vandals and graffiti, the building is a blight on its Hoyt Avenue neighborhood.
It is owned, according to Snohomish County Assessor’s Office records, by an entity called Merrico Trust, which has a mailing address in Buckeye, Ariz.
Clyde Merriwether acknowledges that the 44,000-square-foot building at 3515 Hoyt Ave. now surrounded by security fencing belongs to his family. “Regretfully,” said Merriwether, whose late father C. Raymond Merriwether built the nursing home in 1964.
He said there is a potential buyer for the building, and a plan to perhaps turn it into a 53-unit apartment complex.
“We’re trying to get it sold — finally. It’s been a horror story,” said Merriwether, who lives in Kenmore. He did not disclose the possible buyer’s name.
Merriwether tells a tangled tale of ownership changes and financial failures that resulted in his family once again owning the dilapidated building.
His parents operated it as a nursing home called Merricrest from 1964 until 1972. Merriwether said he lived in the building’s basement in the late 1960s while he attended Everett Community College.
In the early 1970s, his parents sold the nursing home to Lee Rowell, Merriwether said. “He changed it to Virginia Manor,” Merriwether said. “He went belly up with it in the 1990s.”
In 1996, according to Herald archives, Virginia Manor was ordered closed by a federal bankruptcy court in Seattle. The issue wasn’t quality of care. Virginia Manor was operating at a deficit, and owed the state and federal government for overpayments of Medicare and Medicaid.
Over the years, the place with boarded-up windows has drawn the attention of the city and the Everett police. Kate Reardon, a city spokeswoman, said that although no code enforcement actions have been taken against the building’s owners, “it’s definitely been an ongoing relationship with the owners, keeping the building secured.”
“The trust is out of Arizona. If we have active property owners, physically located in our region, we can work with them a lot easier,” she said.
Reardon said the city has had no recent conversations with the Hoyt property owner, and has no active application for any change in its use.
According to Steffani Lillie, an Everett Transit program manager who was acting earlier this month as the city’s spokeswoman, the Everett planning department met months ago with the building’s owner and a representative of the neighboring Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church to discuss parking if the Hoyt building becomes an apartment complex. Part of the church parking lot could be sold. The church is across the alley at Colby Avenue and 36th Street. “There hasn’t been any additional formal contact with the city regarding this property since,” Lillie said.
Aaron Snell, the Everett Police Department’s spokesman, said the building’s owners have cooperated over the years to keep troublemakers away from the site.
“We don’t have tons and tons of issues,” Snell said.
Snell said police and the building’s owner “have a good, cordial relationship. We have worked with them on suggestions for security, which they have used,” he said. Trespassing has been an issue, he said. “I’m sure this property is difficult for them to secure,” Snell said.
Snell also said that during a demolition job some years back, neighbors reported copper theft there. Merriwether said all that’s valuable has now been removed from the site.
Snell said Merriwether allowed police to use the building for SWAT training. A 2004 Everett City Council agenda shows a release of liability agreement between the city and Merriwether for police training.
“We did a training scenario in there. It’s excellent, with a lot of different rooms,” Snell said.
Earlier this month, Merriwether said he and his son spent a day painting over graffiti at the building. Reardon said property owners are responsible for graffiti removal. The city has a program that helps with graffiti removal, but Reardon said it is available only for residences. County assessor records show the ownership changes that Merriwether said have bedeviled his family.
With the 1996 bankruptcy, Merriwether said, the Virginia Manor owner “was in receivership. There was nothing left.” With the building owned again by the Merriwethers, he said, he and his father fixed it up in 1998 and planned to open another senior care facility.
Their investment didn’t work out, he said, and in 2008 the building was sold again. “When the market fell apart, we had to go to court to get the building back. It cost $600,000,” Merriwether said.
County records also show that 2012 property taxes on the building have not been paid.
Merriwether said the building sold for more than $2 million before the 2008 deal fell through. It is now listed on a Commercial Brokers Association website for $1.8 million.
With concrete and rebar construction, Merriwether said it’s not an easy building to remodel. He hopes the apartment deal happens.
“We thought about housing for foreign students, or temporary military housing,” he said. “A policeman gave me an idea — an indoor paintball park.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.