Auburn has much to do to get The Barn ready for medical tourism

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AUBURN — Chinese investors returned to Beijing on Wednesday, leaving city officials to contemplate their next steps toward a $40 million renovation of the circa 1914 Lunn Sweet Shoe Factory building.

City Economic Development Director Roland Miller said the investors from Beijing-based Guo Tou Sheng Tong Investment Co. LTD met with Maine-based financiers and planners Tuesday and Wednesday before flying out of Portland’s Jetport.

“There are many things that need to be accomplished, especially in the next three months,” Miller said. “Which means it will involve very intensive activity over the next three months — getting things in place and finding the proper consultants. Just the financing structure on this alone will be very complicated.”

The investors group, led by chairwoman Shi Qi, announced its plans July 31 to renovate the building most recently known as The Barn into a five-star medical tourism destination for wealthy Chinese patients. 

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The Minot Avenue facility would be open in about two years, according to plans, bringing as many as 5,000 Chinese visitors its first year.

Shi Qi also signed a letter of understanding with Age Doctor Group, a Chinese medical referral company that will send patients to the Maine facility. The Age Doctor Group specializes in anti-aging treatments.

Last week, members of Shi Qi’s group said they planned to return to the Twin Cities in October with more investors to look at the property, with plans to use the former S Goff Street police station as an office.

“Site control over the police station is one element that I feel is very important to the future of the project,” Miller said. “I made that point early on, and when they came in this time they said it is one of the first things they wanted to talk about.”

Miller said the group has submitted a proposal to buy the station for a negotiated price that will have to be reviewed by the City Council.

“The timing for that presentation depends on the investor group,” Miller said. “That timing has not been set, although the purchase and sales proposal has been brought forward.”

Miller said the designs for the facility will also determine what happens with S Goff Street.

Miller said last week that the plan could call for extending the road through the Edward Little Franklin Woods/Snake Trail area between Edward Little High School and Minot Avenue, connecting to Elm Street.

“That will be coordinated with designers for the project to make sure that any improvements are functional, accessible and will do what they need as far as accessing their site,” Miller said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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