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Demolition begins on former home of St. Mary's School of Nursing

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 07:40 AM

HUNTINGTON — Demolition began Wednesday on a building with more than six decades of history on the campus of St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The building, which most recently had been labeled the Professional Center, was the former home of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing and housed classrooms, a chapel and living quarters throughout its 66-year history.

“I think all of us who lived there for a number of years saw it as home, and it is sad to watch it come down. I stood watching the wrecking ball early this morning and it was not easy,” said Sister Diane Bushee, who has been at St. Mary’s since the 1950s. “It is exciting, though, to think about the future, and will be much better in the long run.”

The former School of Nursing building had been dormant for a number of years, but housed the Schools of Nursing, Radiography and Respiratory from 1947 to 2009. Those programs were relocated into St. Mary’s Center for Education on the 5th Avenue campus in 2009.

The demolition, expected to take 10 to 12 weeks, is one part of an overall campus beautification project underway on the medical center’s campus that is expected to take the remainder of the year and cost approximately $2 million.

Tim Parnell, St. Mary’s vice president of support services, planning and development, said the hospital’s administration worked with architects and developers on other potential uses for the building. Due to the building’s age, infrastructure and adherence to current building codes, plans to reuse the building were not feasible.

“The outside walls have three layers of brick, and the building was going to be very difficult to try to renovate, so we finally reached the conclusion it would be too expensive to try and that the best thing would be to go ahead and demolish it,” Bushee said.

Parnell added that the project is an investment in the overall improvement of the campus and the entire Highlawn area.

“The demolition and removal of the old School of Nursing is just the first phase in our campus beautification effort. Right now, all you see is a sea of asphalt, so we’re going to be adding a lot of landscaping and green space as well as addressing some of the issues with the city in terms of water runoff,” Parnell said. “We’re doing a lot of things we think our neighbors and the city will find beneficial.”

In addition to building demolition, other components of the beautification project include replacing the canopy and driveway at the hospital’s main entrance, resurfacing the parking areas and adding additional landscaping and green space.

Parnell said because the medical center campus is landlocked, the space made possible by the demolition could be used for additional campus development in the future.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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