St. Thomas has closed on the sale of the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna to Meridian Behavioral Health LLC.

The closing occurred Aug. 18, and Meridian will renovate the center for use as a supervised living facility providing counseling and treatment services to people who suffer from addictive diseases or behavioral disorders. Meridian hopes to open the facility in January.

St. Thomas operated the center until the end of June, and 16 employees received separation packages. Meridian has hired three Gainey employees at this point to work at the facility.

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

New Brighton-based Meridian was founded in 1989 and is a leading provider of addiction treatment services in Minnesota, with residential facilities and outpatient programs throughout the state.

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 struggled financially over the past decade and had growing annual deficits.

Daniel C. Gainey, longtime president and chief executive officer of Jostens Inc., owned the property for more than 40 years, and his foundation left the property to St. Thomas after his death in 1979. The center opened in 1982 and was used by the university, businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies as a venue for retreats and meetings.

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