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Former Mercy Hospital emptied of tons of old equipment in preparation for demolition

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Before Mercy Hospital is demolished, its contents need to be buried, recycled or donated.

Workers have spent the past month filling up 40-yard dumpsters with couches, chairs, shuffleboard tables, beds, cabinets and plastic toilets left behind at the massive Stone Street complex.

The crew has another month to go.

About 20 Dumpster loads already have been hauled to the regional landfill in Rodman, where about 40 more will be taken before asbestos abatement starts in late December. The asbestos work, which is required by the state, will last about seven months and will enable the 400,000-square-foot structure to be demolished by the end of 2014, said Jeffrey L. Aiello, co-owner of Fayetteville-based COR Development Co.

For the moment, Mr. Aiello isn’t focused on the new four-building complex with 168 apartment units and commercial space that will be built here. His mission is to clean up the old hospital. The landfill will have collected about 1,500 tons of Mercy-related trash by the end of December, and that figure doesn’t account for the massive amount of recyclable scrap metal, or the mounds of old electronics and medical equipment that will be donated to the community or organizations elsewhere.

“The difficulty of this project is the size of the building and massive amount” of stuff that’s in there, Mr. Aiello said Wednesday during a tour. Cluttering hallways were large copier machines, metal sinks and hospital-bed tables on wheels. The 50-degree temperature added to the building’s aura of emptiness.

“It’s like the Titanic,” he said.

Workers already have cleared rooms at the four-story Madonna Home and McAuley Hall buildings on the west side of the complex by Massey Street, Mr. Aiello said. They’ll now need to clear rooms at the main building’s west, north and east wings.

The basement of the building has been converted temporarily into a warehouse to store electronics and medical equipment that will be donated. Hundreds of printers, copiers, computer monitors, tube televisions, fire extinguishers and wheelchairs are grouped in clusters. About 60 dialysis machines were moved from McAuley Hall, . There is now a running list of organizations interested in claiming the hospital items, Mr. Aiello said, including historical societies and senior homes. Items likely will be donated at the end of the year.

The dialysis machines “are in good shape, but the technology is much older than we have in the States,” he said. “We might donate them to be used in a Third World country.”

On Wednesday, a crew of nine workers from Syracuse-based So Gone Trash Removal was busy hauling and sorting equipment. Kismet H. Thompkins, crew manager, said each room has two or three TV sets, ranging from 13 to 35 inches in size, that need to be removed.

When the crew is finished, “there could be up to 800 TVs here,” he said.

Workers also were sorting pipes and radiators salvaged as scrap metal. The radiators from hospital rooms have copper tubing and aluminum fins; copper pipes used to connect the radiators range from 6 inches to 8 feet in length. Loads of metal desks and file cabinets also are being recycled.

Proceeds from the scrap metal will go directly toward the project cost, Mr. Aiello said.

About 8,000 feet of copper piping to be removed during the abatement project will not be recyclable because it is covered in asbestos wrapping, Mr. Aiello said. The amount of recyclable piping is expected to be less than 8,000 feet, he said, but he could not provide an estimate.

Once demolished, concrete from the building’s foundation also will be salvaged.

Meanwhile, Mr. Aiello offered more specifics about the $65 million to $70 million project, which is expected to include both market-rate rental apartments and affordable senior units. The two buildings planned at the west end of the site will feature a combined 42,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, while their upper floors will have apartments; the two buildings on the east side will contain only apartments.

The developer hopes to break ground on the complex in early 2015, Mr. Aiello said, and will finish construction in 24 to 36 months.

Several business prospects have expressed interest in moving into the retail space, he said. On average, leased space likely will be from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet. That would allow more than 20 businesses to set up shop there.

“We hope it will be filled with local restaurant and retail tenants,” he said.

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