Meridian Behavioral Health LLC has signed a purchase agreement to acquire the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna from the University of St. Thomas, and plans to use the center as a supervised living facility providing counseling and treatment services to people who suffer from addictive diseases or behavioral disorders.

The timing of a sale has not been determined but could occur by this fall, said Francis Sauvageau, president and chief executive officer of New Brighton-based Meridian, and Mark Vangsgard, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer at St. Thomas. The university will continue to operate the center for the foreseeable future. The purchase price will not be disclosed.

The sale would include all 180 acres and all of the buildings except for the Winton Guest House designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. St. Thomas is exploring options for the house, which will remain on the Gainey property for up to two years.

Meridian was founded in 1989 and is a leading provider of addiction treatment services in Minnesota, with seven residential facilities, one medicated assisted treatment program and 10 outpatient programs in the state.

“I am delighted at the prospects of offering treatment services at the Gainey Center to help people find sobriety,” Sauvageau said. “Gainey (and its site) offers the opportunity to serve an unmet need for addiction treatment and for Meridian to extend its footprint into southern Minnesota. As important, the pastoral setting is ideally suited to provide therapy and treatment services.”

Meridian representatives, including Sauvageau, will hold a public information meeting to explain the project and answer questions at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, in the county board room of the Steele County Administration Center, 630 Florence Ave., Owatonna.

“St. Thomas is pleased that such a highly respected company as Meridian is interested in purchasing the Gainey Center,” Vangsgard said. “Meridian does an exceptional job in providing treatment services, and we look forward to closing on the sale of the property.”

The purchase agreement has a due diligence period during which Meridian will fully examine the property and determine whether to proceed with the purchase.

St. Thomas decided in February to sell Gainey

The St. Thomas Board of Trustees voted in February to sell Gainey after determining the center could not continue to be operated in a financially sustainable manner and that an expansion plan would not overcome weaknesses in the conference services market. The center has struggled financially over the past decade and has had annual deficits.

Gainey has nine full-time and seven regular part-time employees, most of whom live in the Owatonna area. The property includes the Gainey home, a replica of a French Norman country house; the center, which includes meeting rooms, dining facilities and 35 guest rooms; a classroom building; two smaller houses; and horse barns.

Daniel C. Gainey, longtime president and chief executive officer of Jostens Inc., owned the property for more than 40 years and raised Arabian horses there. Upon his death in 1979, the Gainey Foundation left the property to St. Thomas.

The center opened in 1982 and is marketed to businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies as a venue for retreats and planning meetings. St. Thomas departments also use the center for retreats, seminars, meetings and classes.