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Fergus Falls expected to get $3.5 million for continued Kirkbride demolition

Demolition crews work Wednesday, May 23, at the historic Fergus Falls (Minn.) Regional Treatment Center to remove the new administration building that was added to the campus in the 1950s. Most buildings on the state hospital campus are expected to come down if the city receives $3.5 million for demolition work in the state bonding bill. Special to The Forum

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Even before the stroke of Gov. Mark Dayton's pen on the state bonding bill, demolition is underway at a sprawling historic state hospital campus here.

This week, demolition crews were busy at the Kirkbride, formerly the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center, tearing down the new administrative building constructed in the 1950s.

With Dayton expected to sign the $875 million bonding bill later this week, the city will have another $3.5 million to carry out demolition until only the 127-year-old main administration building with iconic towers remains.

City officials have said in the past decade, 17 failed redevelopment proposals led the City Council to unanimously vote in January for a two-phase demolition approach.

The first phase has been ongoing since the end of February, according to City Administrator Andrew Bremseth. That demolition consisted of three buildings and gazebos as well as closing campus tunnels.

But the grassroots group Friends of the Kirkbride and some of its 4,500 members are still fighting to save the Kirkbride. A petition asking legislators to deny funding the demolition garnered 6,300 signatures.

Some members shared photos online of demolition progress this week. While the group is calling for preserving the property, many commented online that it's a good thing to get rid of the new administration building.

Bremseth said it's the last step in the first phase being funded by a $1.9 million bond. The bonding bill now on Dayton's desk, if approved, will fund a second phase of demolition.

Council member Jim Fish said the city requested $3.9 million, but legislators are likely to allocate $3.5 million. When the council initially voted to move ahead with demolition, the city was requesting $8.9 million, but that amount was significantly reduced.

The funding will go toward removing outbuildings behind the main Kirkbride building, Fish said.

Mayor Ben Schierer didn't return calls for comment. He previously told The Forum that demolition would take years to complete and the city would be open to redevelopment ideas.

Kirkbride was slated for demolition when its doors shuttered in 2005.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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