Fire and water damage to the historic but long-abandoned building is too severe to keep alive hopes that the structure can be restored and repurposed, Nampa Fire Marshal Phil Roberts said, so “the plan is to demolish the building.”
City officials and the owner of the building met Tuesday to determine its fate.
“It’s not just the fire damage. The basement is full of water. And it’s been vacant for so long there are a lot of other issues,” Roberts said.
The site will be fenced off, he said, and the owner will seek bids for demolition. A time line has not been set.
Investigators have ruled out an electrical malfunction as the cause of the three-alarm fire that roared through much of the building at 1615 8th St. S. early Saturday morning.
“It was a set fire — we just don’t know whether it was intentional or unintentional because of a warming fire with homeless people in there,” Roberts said.
The three-alarm fire was reported around 3:10 a.m. Saturday and destroyed the roof and top floor of the three-story brick building. It took about 13 hours to fully extinguish the blaze, Roberts said, and firefighters from six departments responded.
The fire marshal declined to say where the fire started.
“We know right where it started, but we should probably hold back on releasing that in case we need to conduct some further interviews,” Roberts said.
Located across the street from St. Paul’s Catholic School, Mercy Hospital was built in 1919 and run by the Sisters of Mercy. It was designed by acclaimed architects John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel. The Mission Revival building, with additions in 1936, 1957 and 1959, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
The old hospital closed after a new Mercy hospital opened in 1968 at 1512 12th Ave. Road. Now operated by the Saint Alphonsus Health System, that hospital will be replaced in 2017 by a new hospital off Interstate 84 at Garrity Boulevard.
The old Mercy building served as Valley Plaza Retirement Center until 1999 but has since sat vacant. Teenagers who once frequented the site told the Statesman they loved the old hospital’s haunted-house feel.
Officials said squatters who once roamed the building became less of a problem after the owner took steps to reinforce the entries, but Roberts said there is evidence some people were using the building recently.
The 2-acre lot is valued at $361,680, with the 45,000 square foot building carrying an assessed value of $1,000, according to the Canyon County assessment records.
Plans to restore the building as low-income housing for senior citizens were expected to increase the property’s assessed value to about $2.5 million, according to estimates in 2012. The city approved an urban renewal district intended to fund improvements to the site’s water supply, fire safety and streetscape.
The restoration plan, which would use low-income housing and historic preservation tax credits to upgrade the building, didn’t move forward as anticipated, but the idea was still in the works, Nampa Economic Development Director Beth Ineck said Tuesday. Although Community Development Inc. withdrew from the project, she said, “other groups had been negotiating with the owners.”
City leaders and preservationists invested a lot of time and energy into efforts to keep the old hospital whole, Ineck said, including creation of the renewal district and extensive documentation to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now that the building is expected to be torn down, she said, the renewal district could still fund improvements at the site once plans for new development arise. And what comes next could increase property values and pride in the neighborhood.
Still, Ineck said, “it’s really sad to see the building be destroyed in that fashion.”