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Advocate BroMenn applies to demolish two aging buildings

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NORMAL — Two aging buildings on the Advocate BroMenn Medical Center campus would be demolished under plans filed with the town of Normal.

The nearly vacant 1913 building that is attached to the medical center and Mecherle Hall, a stand-alone building to the east of the medical center, would come down next spring if BroMenn's application is approved by town officials.

The aging buildings have become costly to maintain and are no longer needed because of Advocate BroMenn building projects in the past few years, said Tim Bassett, BroMenn construction project manager.

The Department of Mission and Spiritual Care, the final tenant of the 1913 building, will move later this month to the medical center's adjoining 1953 building, Bassett explained outside the building on Tuesday.

Advocate Medical Group Behavioral Health, the remaining user of Mecherle Hall, would move to the Advocate BroMenn Outpatient Center, 3024 E. Empire St., next spring, Bassett said.

"Leaving here (Mecherle Hall) will be bittersweet," said Kevin Krippner, a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical coordinator for Advocate Medical Group Behavioral Health, which provides counseling, psychiatric services and psychological testing.

Krippner remembers when behavioral health moved from Locust Street in Bloomington to Mecherle Hall, 403 W. Virginia Ave., Normal, in the late 1990s.

"It will be like leaving an old friend," he said. "But we are moving to a bigger and better place. The new space looks absolutely wonderful."

Krippner hopes to expand group counseling services and believes patients and families will appreciate newer surroundings and additional parking.

"This is not a surprise," Normal Town Planner Mercy Davison said of Advocate BroMenn's demolition applications. "We knew this was on the horizon for Advocate due to the age of the facilities and the geographic constraints of their campus."

But the chairwoman of the Normal Historic Preservation Commission has called for a meeting of the commission to rule on BroMenn's demolition applications. She must sign off on all demolition permits and her call for a meeting means she didn't feel comfortable signing off on the permits without commission consideration, Davison explained.

The commission will meet at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Uptown Station.

If the commission denies the applications, town code provides a 30-day window for the town to designate the buildings as historic landmarks, Davison said. If the commission approves the applications, demolition would proceed.

The town is requiring Advocate BroMenn, 1304 Franklin Ave., to amend its site plan, focusing on BroMenn's plans for the Mecherle Hall space, Davison said. The Normal Planning Commission will take up the matter 5 p.m. Nov. 5 at Uptown Station.

The 1913 building, which is 20,350 square feet, hasn't had patient rooms for more than 15 years, said Eric Alvin, BroMenn manager of public affairs and marketing. In recent years, the building has housed mostly administrative offices and they have moved to newer buildings on the medical center campus, he said.

The 1913 building, surrounded by newer BroMenn buildings, would be replaced by an enclosed walkway connecting those buildings.

Mecherle Hall, a 1941 building that's 12,900 square feet, would be replaced with Mecherle Meditation Garden, a footpath that would include architectural elements from Mecherle Hall, Alvin said.

Demolishing both buildings would cost nearly $600,000, Bassett said. But that money would be recovered in a little over a year through reduced operating expenses.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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