A run-down but historic hospital building on the Mendota Mental Health Institute campus has been spared from demolition while the state reconsiders plans to rehabilitate it.
Gov. Jim Doyle has asked the state Department of Health Services to look at the project again, and the $541,000 demolition contract to tear down the old Wisconsin Memorial Hospital has been canceled, Doyle spokeswoman Carla Vigue said Tuesday.
In January 2008, the state Building Commission, with approval from the Wisconsin Historical Society, approved razing the building, which last housed a veterans’ hospital. The hospital was built in 1922 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Last summer, developer Gary Gorman proposed using about $3.4 million in affordable housing and historic preservation tax credits and traditional financing to rehab the place. Gorman plans to lease the building to Catholic Charities of Madison to provide a home for Hope Haven-Rebos United, which provides drug and alcohol treatment. The state rejected the plan at that time.
State Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, has been pushing to save the building, located on the North Side of Madison. She said the Wisconsin State Journal’s April 14 story about the building’s plight helped her make the case.
Roys said public officials owe the state’s taxpayers another look at the historic building.
“My goal is to get all the players within the next few weeks to come together and find some reasonable plan for the how the building can be saved,” she said.
The site has additional value to American Indian groups who should also have a say in what happens to the building, Roys said.
“The grounds of Mendota contain some of the best preserved and largest, most significant Indian burial mounds in the entire country,” she said.
Jim Draeger, deputy state historic preservation officer, said he would like to see Gorman’s plan get a fair hearing.
“I am hopeful that his proposal will result in the successful rehabilitation of an important historic building built as a memorial to Wisconsin veterans,” Draeger said.