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Demolition of all Mercy Hospital structures slated for completion in seven to eight months

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One by one, they’ll start coming down.

COR Development Co., Fayetteville, plans to demolish the sprawling former Mercy Hospital complex, 218 Stone St., one structure at a time, company President Steven F. Aiello said.

Once one building is rid of asbestos, work on the next will begin, he said.

The same process will be used for demolition — slated to begin in a month or so — of the west side of the complex, where nursing home residents once lived in the Madonna Home.

“We’ll start on one side and work our way down,” Mr. Aiello said, adding it will take about seven to eight months to remove all the buildings.

Technically, the complex is made up of three buildings, but the former Mercy Hospital had east, west and north wings, giving an appearance of three separate structures, company officials said.

So far, preparations for two of the buildings — the former Madonna Home and the boiler/laundry room building — have been completed and await a demolition contractor to come on board, COR project manager Mark J. Pelletier said.

Once the complex has been removed, the site will be converted into 40,000 square feet of retail and office space with 160 to 200 upper-floor apartments. It will take 24 to 36 months to complete the $65 million to $70 million project.

COR has been using a $2.1 million state grant to help pay for the environmental cleanup of the Stone Street site. Asbestos already has been abated in the former nursing home, while that work is now underway in adjacent McAuley Hall, once used as a residence for nursing students and later converted to house nursing home residents.

Initially, workers spent two months filling up 40-yard dumpsters with couches, chairs, shuffleboard tables, beds, cabinets and plastic toilets left behind at the massive complex. After asbestos abatement, all the copper and other salvageable materials are being removed and either sold or taken to the landfill.

Once demolition is in full swing, about 30 construction workers will be involved. There won’t be any explosions or implosions; instead, a long-neck excavator and an army of loaders, dump trucks and other heavy equipment will be on site to take down each of the structures.

“It’ll be delicately taken apart because of the logistics of the whole thing,” Mr. Pelletier said of what he called “the biggest job” he’s ever done.

COR took ownership of the complex in September after closing the deal to acquire the property’s deed from MGNH Inc., the defunct Lake Katrine company that had shown little interest in it for years.

Last April, the complex became completely vacant when Samaritan Medical Center moved the residents of Mercy Care Center of Northern New York into the new Samaritan Summit Village on outer Washington Street.

On Friday, Mr. Pelletier took a reporter on a tour of the basement and two other floors of the former Madonna Home. The hallways were eerily quiet. And the interior was just as cold as the below-zero temperature outside.

“It’s a final reality to it, you know?” Mr. Pelletier said.

This year’s brutal temperatures and large amounts of snow have caused “headaches” for construction workers, he said. A sheet of ice made it difficult to roam around on the first story’s cement floor.

All of the rooms were empty, some in worse shape than others as a result of construction crews hammering large holes in the walls. Old wiring and metal pieces from the drop ceiling dangled above. At one end of a hall a small sign that used to direct residents and staffers to the occupational therapy and physical therapy departments still hung expectantly.

Years ago, the hospital was a busy place.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me they were born here,” Mr. Pelletier said.

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