Re-Purposing Department: What to do with a soon-to-be-vacated hospital building?

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I know the decision has supposedly not been reached, and so I may be jumping the gun, but I do very much doubt that the local IU Health Bloomington Hospital will choose to remain in its current downtown location —

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— given that strategically located rural land northwest of town (just off an already built interchange for the soon-to-be I69) for a larger footprint regional hospital has already been purchased and roads put in (as I recall, even with curbs and gutters, true?).

If so, then how to re-purpose the massive old hospital building, plus all the medical offices around it that are sure to move too? Would the hospital and its environs just become a massive white elephant, dragging “the economy” down, and local folks with it? I know that’s the fear.

Here’s a post from just four days ago, in the local Herald-Times.

Former mayor: IU Health has not built a case for moving hospital out of downtown

Rather than trying to convince the hospital to stay put and try to expand and renovate in its existing footprint (because that is the alternative to a new hospital), let’s imagine that no arguments against moving will work (especially if a decision has already been made, and the powers that be are just trying to roll out this info gently and slowly).

If so, what’s next? Let’s think creatively, shall we? Check out this video, from a village in Alaska. We could re-imagine the old in-town hospital transforming into its own village, deeply affordable and hopefully intergenerational, with its own theater (the hospital stage and auditorium), kitchen and dining room, first floor open space, grocery and other shops, a day-care center, a school, start-up businesses, and so on. Hospital rooms transformed into tiny studio apartments, each with its own bathroom. One floor of one of the wings could be actual studios, art studios! Perhaps intermixed with start-up businesses! Hey, how about a whole floor filled with alternative health practitioners in what was once part of the pharmaceutical/industrial complex! A large or extended family — or a group of friends for that matter — could all live on one floor of one wing. On any floor, one or more rooms could be designated as commons areas, gathering spots. Different floors catering to different needs? Or all mixed up? Lots of possibilities. The point is, this changeover could be a good time, and in the process, revitalize not only the hospital grounds, but the neighborhood around it.

And then, of course, when we start to re-imagine the old hospital building, that just naturally slides into re-imagining how existing apartment buildings are currently used as well. Each of them could become its own close-nit village, wherein, as with the “condo association” in the Whittier Alaska edifice, “It’s silly to say that you live a lonely life while living in the building.” And here in Bloomington InDiana, unlike Whittier Alaska, any green space around apartment buildings can transform into urban farms.

Update, 1/24/15: And check this out, an abandoned Wal-Mart into a public library.



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2 Responses to Re-Purposing Department: What to do with a soon-to-be-vacated hospital building?

  1. CindyW. says:

    your ideas for how to repurpose are great – but another piece would be to educate people on why they want to move the hospital – they’re assuming continued high private car use volume, so you want the hospital near the interstate (this happened at the hospital where I used to work in Ohio. I knew about peak oil and waited for them to even mention the issue, which they never did.) Do we really want to devote those kinds of resources to propping up current car consumption patterns? Or do we want to do something different?

    • Yeah, that’s for sure. Agree with all you say, which is why I slyly inserted the part about alternative health practitioners in the old medico/industrial complex hospital. I’m afraid the decision to build or not build, renovate or not renovate is out of we the people’s hands. It’s done at that massive corporate level which has veiled the natural world so thickly that we cannot help but breathe its foul air. And yes, we tried, and failed, to stop the interstate, too. The corporate juggernaut crunches on. However, we can re-imagine the detritus it leaves behind. Which is what we’re doing with the Tunnel Park, a throwaway piece of land created by the widened bypass road that some of us tried to stop, too.

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