Last Tuesday, Ellen, Tristan and I attended a meeting about the re-use of the former Northfield City Hospital on First Street.
Joel West, Asst. City Administrator (center) and Dan Dimick, Reuse Committee member (right).
The meeting was held in the old hospital and about 85 area residents attended the meeting along with city staff and elected officials. It was both good to see so many folks interested in the old hospital site, and also to have one last look in the building. (See the photo gallery of the open house on the Northfield.org site.)
The old hospital holds a real soft spot in our hearts for Ellen and me. All our children were born in the hospital. We ran down to the hospital with children bleeding from cuts and needing stitches. We whisked a daughter to the hospital when a fever got dangerously high. We were able to walk over many, many times to be with Aunt Myrtle as she was cared for by the great staff at the Dilley Nursing Home unit.
Now that our wonderful new hospital is up and running in the northwest corner of town, the old hospital site must be dealt with. The city council formed a “Re-Use Committee” to examine possible options and solutions. Those folks have been working hard. The purpose of the meeting on Tuesday was to present some concept site plans, gather feedback from the wider community and inform people what has been done so far. Lots of information.
There is one sticky area that has not been addressed well up to this point, namely, should the land revert to park land. The land the old hospital sits on was given to the City of Northfield by the Way sisters in the early 1900’s, for use as a park. In the early 1930’s when the city needed to build a hospital, the Way sisters agreed to let the city use a portion of Way Park for hospital building, with the stipulation that when it was no longer needed as a hospital, it be returned to park land. Since that time statutes have been adopted by the State that allow this type of restriction to run for about 30 years…..after that period of time the city can decide what the best use of the property is.
At the meeting Tuesday I expressed my opinion that the City needs to address this park land issue up front and immediately. It seems to be a waste of energy to prepare and discuss residential re-use development options if the city council agrees with the terms of the land gift and wants to return the land to park land. If the city council does not want to return the land to park land, then I feel that should be stated up front and then move on to discuss possible re-use and development ideas.
I hope the Northfield City Council will soon deal with the park land question directly. Allowing the park issue to be mixed in with the re-use and development plans creates a bit of a muddy concept, and complicates the issue.