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Wrecking ball looms for old Saint Al’s hospital

Formerly known as Mercy Medical Center, the 114-bed hospital opened in 1968 and was shuttered two years ago by Saint Alphonsus Health System. The site will soon be cleared.
Photo by Sharon Fisher

NAMPA – Saint Alphonsus Health System officials have yet to hire a company to raze the former Mercy Medical Center on 12th Avenue in Nampa, but the wrecking ball could be swinging at the site by the end of the summer.

The facility will be torn down after plans to redevelop the 232,000-square-foot building went nowhere.

Officials said they had negotiated with various groups, including the state of Idaho, Nampa School District, the College of Western Idaho, the City of Nampa and other parties seeking to donate or sell the building, which has sit empty for two years ever since Saint Al’s built a new medical center adjacent to I-84.

“We know that the now-vacant hospital building holds special memories,” said Lynda Clark, Nampa Community Hospital board chairwoman. “It was our hope that the former Mercy Medical Center could find a new life, but ultimately no viable plan came forward. After trying for nearly two years to find another use for this building, the time has come to sell the land so a new community asset can take its place.”

The nearly 19-acre site is zoned residential professional. The ultimate use for the land is subject to approval by the city of Nampa, according to the health system.

“A couple of contractors have indicated they are submitting bids,” said Mark Snider, a spokesman for the health system.

He was unable to reveal the exact amount of the contract to raze the structure and do environmental remediation at the site. He said the system hopes to make a decision on a vendor sometime in July.

“The cost to retrofit (a former hospital) for other purposes was economically unfeasible” to any interested parties, said Snider.

The hospital, which was built in 1986, was characteristic of similar facilities of the era, with low ceilings, narrow halls and aging building systems that don’t convey the impression of 21st century medicine.

On top of that, there are routine expenses to maintain an abandoned building, even in mothballed condition.

Some experts in hospital design and construction say they understand the huge task at hand. It’s far easier, they say, to build a brand-new hospital or medical center, as Saint Alphonsus did in 2017.

Studies show that sometimes it can be more expensive to update.

“It’s very complicated to renovate an old hospital, and often not worth the effort,” said Timothy Frank, a partner at Artekna, an Indianapolis-based design and architecture firm specializing in health care, who has done work for several hospital systems.

“Just fighting with the infrastructure is always a challenge,” he said. “Trying to accommodate new technology, new equipment and new code requirements into a building of any significant age is tough.”

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