GRUNDY, VA – JULY 19, 2023  An up to a $700,000 forgivable loan from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) to the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to be used to finance building construction in the development of an assisted living facility at Southern Gap in Buchanan County, Va., was closed recently.

The Heart Stone Lodge project, being spearheaded by the Coalfields Health Foundation (CHF), will develop a 53-suite/61-bed assisted living facility and is expected to create 17 full-time and 23 part-time jobs within five years of its opening. Its overall direct, indirect and induced economic impact is projected to infuse $1.1 to $1.7 million in new payroll and $2.5 to $5.3 million in total contribution to GDP, according to CHF officials.

According to the CHF, the coalfields area has 30 percent more seniors as a percentage of population than the national average.

The land at Southern Gap on which the project will be located was recently transferred by the Buchanan County IDA to Buchanan General Hospital, which in turn leased a portion of it to CHF for the Heart Stone project. 

“An assisted living facility is part of the senior living/long term care industry and bridges the gap between care at-home and nursing homes,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The IDA identified a need for an assisted living facility following a preliminary feasibility study in 2015 and formed a task force to move the project along. VCEDA is pleased to play a part in helping to bring this needed service and the jobs it will create to Buchanan County.”

The task force feasibility study conducted by the county in 2015 demonstrated the need for as many as 97 assisted living beds in Buchanan County to serve senior citizens of Buchanan and neighboring counties. The task force then issued an RFP to long term care companies with interest, to independently evaluate the feasibility of the assisted living project and to submit proposals for such a project. 

In February 2017, Scott Pittman, chief operating officer of Buchanan General Hospital and Kirk Story, retired hospital administrator and healthcare developer, presented a proposal which was accepted by the IDA. A community board of directors was assembled.

A timeline for the project estimates dedication for the site in September 2023; design of infrastructure/ utilities construction documents followed by actual construction, September 2023 to December 2024; construction design from September 2024 to January 2025; foundation work from March to December 2025; actual construction in 2026-2027; and a grand opening in the fall of 2027.

The facility will feature senior living accommodations with staffing 24 hours a day. The lodge will include a large community living room with TVs, fireplaces and comfortable furniture; restaurant-style dining providing three meals a day plus snacks; a multipurpose area for programs, activities and entertainment of all types; a library/chapel; beauty salon/barber shop; and spa.

“I’m very pleased to see the Heart Stone project one step closer to getting off the ground,” said Buchanan County IDA Executive Director Matt Fields. “The myriad of assets this assisted living facility project will bring to Buchanan is paramount for the aging population that we so desperately need to take care of. We appreciate Heart Stone’s steadfast dedication to helping the residents of Buchanan County have access to the care they would have to travel elsewhere to receive.”

“On behalf of the Coalfields Health Foundation Board of Directors, we would like to thank VCEDA for $700,000 in funds to support our Heart Stone Lodge Assisted Living project,” said Jim Wayne Childress, treasurer of the Coalfields Health Foundation board of directors and chairman of the assisted living project capital campaign. “This project is an important development for our county which currently does not have a full service assisted living facility to serve our seniors. VCEDA is well-respected as a leader in facilitating economic development in Southwest Virginia. VCEDA’s leadership in funding this project provides an important example which will help assure the success of our $10 million dollar capital campaign.”

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or