Former Shawano hospital to be torn down

The former Shawano Medical Center building is seen, March 2, 2016. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

An opportunity for prime riverfront real estate may soon be available in Shawano.

On Wednesday evening, city leaders recommended tearing down the old Shawano Medical Center. The city council still needs to approve that demolition recommendation. If that happens, there is expected to be competition for what to put at the 10-acre site on the Wolf River.

The building, on Bartlett Street, served the city for more than 80 years. After three years of brainstorming what to do with ThedaCare's old hospital building, the facility remains empty.

"We first looked at re purposing the current building," said Dorothy Erdmann, the CEO of ThedaCare Medical Center in Shawano. "We had two options but they didn't materialize, so now at this point we're looking to move ahead to demo the building."

The decision to demolish the building is welcome news to people who've been looking at possibilities for the riverfront property.

"This is really one of the biggest things to happen to the city of Shawano in a long time," said Todd Dobberstein of Shawano.

Dobberstein started looking at the building eight months ago as a possible community center. Now that the building will be demolished, Dobberstein is also looking at apartments, a restaurant, and possibly retail space for the property.

"When we say Shawano, city on the Wolf, we really don't have a lot of development on the Wolf so we're pretty excited about having a large piece of property like this that we can do something with," said Dobberstein.

The city owns 3.5 acres of the property. ThedaCare owns the other 6.5 acres and has agreed to pick up the cost of demolishing the building.

"We had made a promise to the community that it wouldn't become a burden and languish with no use," said Erdmann.

Demolition is expected to be complete by the end of summer. In the meantime, the city expects development competition. Beyond Dobberstein's ideas, a hospitality company has approached the city with interest.

"What we really need to do is work with ThedaCare on how we go forward with evaluating those alternatives and making a selection amongst them," said Brian Knapp, the city's administrator.

There is no timeline for when that might happen.

The city's administrator says the city has been talking about demolition with ThedaCare since November. However, both sides allowed the Menominee Indian Tribe to explore reusing the old building. The tribe recently decided it wouldn't pursue any project.