• Joseph F. Berenato

Kessler Complex nearly all filled


The interior of the Ambulatory Surgical Pavilion of New Jersey, like the rest of the Kessler Medical Arts Complex, was completely gutted and redesigned. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—When William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital closed its doors in March of 2009, the future of the property remained uncertain until Community Healthcare Associates, LLC—now known as CHA Partners—acquired the property in 2011 for $2.6 million.


CHA Partners rebranded the facility as the Kessler Medical Arts Complex, which reopened in 2012.


Kobi Leifer, a partner with CHA Partners, said that the property underwent a complete renovation.


“When we took it over, it was a big feat to come in and try to figure out what the actual needs of the community are. Every occupied space in that building was gut-renovated, so everything had to be fully renovated and gutted, and everything was brand-new in those occupied spaces,” Leifer said.


Currently, the complex houses Pyramid Healthcare Hammonton Detox and Inpatient Treatment Center, and Ambulatory Surgical Pavilion of N.J.


Initially, Leifer said, the property had a long-term care license attached to it.


“What happened was, we ended up selling part of the building to a nursing home company, a long-term care company. They ended up not building up what we thought they were going to do, which would be to build some sort of small nursing home in the building. As a developer, we didn’t want the property to sit, and they bought a portion of the building; we condoed the building and they bought a portion of it. We didn’t want it to sit dormant, so we negotiated and ended up buying it back from them in order to get something done in that space,” Leifer said.


Leifer said that CHA Partners sold that space to Pyramid Healthcare in order for them to expand their footprint in the building, which is nearly fully occupied; the facility was also home to Bacharach Sleep Center, which opened in 2015 but has since closed.


“Pyramid, right now, currently owns about three-quarters of the building. There’s a surgery center that’s up and running in the building—a beautiful surgery center. We had Bacharach Sleep Center that was renting space from us ... Bacharach went dark, and Pyramid is planning on subleasing their space,” Leifer said.


Tom Fowler, the Vice President of Operations for Pyramid Healthcare, noted that “things at Pyramid are going quite well.”


“Our goal is to expand services there at the Kessler site, because we have had success. We currently have 100 beds—20 detox and 80 residential substance abuse treatment beds—for adults. We’ve been open since December of 2018. Over the course of that time, we’ve really seen the need. We’re at a point now where we’re working at close to capacity,” Fowler said.


The interior of the Ambulatory Surgical Pavilion of New Jersey, like the rest of the Kessler Medical Arts Complex, was completely gutted and redesigned. (Courtesy Photo)

Fowler said that the center has observed an ever-present and increasing need for its services.


“What we do track is, anytime we get calls into our call center and we’re unable to accommodate a request for admission, we track the reasons for that. What we’ve been seeing is that, when we’re at our capacity and don’t have any open beds, we’re seeing that almost 60 percent of our turn-downs are due to just that: that we need more beds. If we had more detox or if we had more residential beds, there would be clients looking to fill them. That’s really important, because, as you know, substance abuse in our state, unfortunately, has continued to be a real issue, especially specifically with the opioid epidemic,” Fowler said.


That need, Fowler said, prompted the company to request a potential expansion from the town of Hammonton.


“We’re looking to add an additional 86 beds. That should help a lot in being able to accommodate those calls that we do get ... We have 100 employees now, many of which live in the Hammonton area. With this expansion, we’d be looking to at least add probably 40-plus additional employees from the local area. That’s something that would be beneficial as well,” Fowler said.


Dominic Barone, the program manager for Pyramid’s Hammonton facility, said that feedback from the community has been positive.


“A lot of the different businesses, between our staff going out to lunch on a daily basis or ordering stuff, or for staff, as well as several of our contractors as we expand and what we use currently, are local. A lot of good feedback. We got an award from the Chamber of Commerce for our first year, which was very nice, and introduced me to a lot of the business folk throughout the town, which is great. It’s a very tight-knit community, and we are very fortunate to have been accepted and welcomed with open arms,” Barone said.


Fowler concurred, noting that they are “really excited to be in Hammonton.”


“That site, particularly, is working out very well for us. There’s a lot of space. We’ve been able to tailor it to meet our needs. Hammonton Lake is a beautiful spot, and it’s a nice area for our clients to be in their rehabilitation. Most importantly, we’re looking to safely and effectively add additional services. Through that approval, we are looking to build up that other space on the Kessler site,” Fowler said.


Unfortunately, Fowler said, like many other projects, the pandemic has “slowed down a lot of progress when it comes to construction and building and such.”


“Right now, we have a long-term goal of having those beds come online probably in the late summer, but, like any construction project, those are guidelines. We’re taking the proper steps to get approvals and move forward to have all of that construction work out well. We’re excited to do so, because we think it’ll be a real benefit to the community and to the people of New Jersey,” Fowler said.


After Pyramid’s expansion, Leifer said, there will be very little space left available in the complex.


“There’s maybe 5,000 or 6,000 square feet that is still not yet rented ... The hope is that we can find the right fit for that space that we have remaining,” Leifer said.


Leifer said that it is also the hope of CHA Partners that “the businesses that are in there continue to flourish and do well.”


“I think the building is a very successful story of taking a hospital that was dormant and closed down and getting it more than 90 percent occupied with healthcare; there definitely was a need in the community,” Leifer said.


The Gazette attempted to reach several representatives from Ambulatory Surgical Pavilion of N.J., but multiple requests for comment were not returned.