Crews began razing Thursday the hospital where thousands of Springfielders were born, taking it down brick by brick.
Three backhoes ripped into the old hospital’s boiler room, tearing down the structure and a small stack. It was the first sign of visible demolition following weeks of asbestos abatement inside, said Dave Lamb, Community Mercy Health Partners spokesman.
The site will be completely demolished by June 2013 and ready for a new occupant, Lamb said.
“It’s a bittersweet time to see this building coming down,” he said. “This is one of two hospitals that served this community for many years but we finally realized the goal — the dream of a new state-of-the-art facility.”
Community Hospital closed Nov. 13, 2011, the same day the new Springfield Regional Medical Center opened downtown.
Speculation had surrounded what would happen to the vacant building, particularly after it attracted graffiti. In September, hospital staff announced that due to its age, remodeling or reuse wasn’t viable and the building would be torn down.
Final demolition costs haven’t been determined, Lamb said. Initial estimates pegged demolition to cost between $3 million and $9 million, and Lamb said Thursday he believed the cost would be on the lower end of that estimate.
The boiler room was expected to be completely demolished by Thursday evening. Then deconstruction will appear to lull as work continues inside.
It will take several months to abate additional asbestos in other parts of the hospital — which crews from Tony Smith Wrecking said fill every room. A back portion of the hospital will be demolished after that abatement, followed by the former school of nursing and ending with the landmark south tower.
The hospital and nursing school combined total more than 481,000 square feet, according to the Clark County auditor.
What will happen to the land once Community Hospital is down has yet to be determined. The city remains interested in acquiring the site. City staff members have been in contact with past and present hospital officials about possibly acquiring the land once demolition is complete, according to city commission retreat documents.
However, Lamb said any talks are still considered preliminary.
“It’s still to be determined what the use of this property is, but the first step is to clear the land,” he said.
Community Mercy also own the former Mercy Medical Center on Fountain Avenue. That site still has some operations ongoing.
There are no firm plans for demolition of that site, Lamb said, although the Dayton Development Coalition is seeking $2.5 million in federal funding to raze Mercy.
In the past organizations such as Wittenberg University expressed interest in taking over Mercy. Its future won’t be involved in any serious discussion, Lamb said, until Community Hospital is demolished.
“It’s a long process,” he said.
Due to safety concerns, Lamb said residents are advised not to cross the fence line in search of mementos. Tony Smith Wrecking has hired security to guard the site until work is complete.
Ground was broken on Community Hospital’s East High Street campus on Feb. 7, 1931, and it was formally dedicated on Sept. 25, 1932. It was paid for by $1.8 million in voter-approved bonds, according to a pamphlet marking the hospital’s history, which dates back to the first City Hospital in 1887.
More than 100 people shared their memories of Community Hospital on the Springfield News-Sun Facebook page, recalling good times and bad.
“Spent the most amazing day of my life there bout 13 years ago. My son was born there,” said Nate Strawsburg.
For thousands, the hospital was also a place of employment and education as it was also home to the Community Hospital School of Nursing, which closed in June 2012.
“This building holds so many memories that can never be erased. Born there, worked there since the age of 20 as a brand-new nurse, had all my children, grandchildren and said goodbye to many,” said Penny McBlane Ake. “Many long lasting friendships, laughs and tears shared in this building and I would not trade any of them for all the money in the world.”