Chances for a last-minute reprieve for nine vacant buildings at the Brainerd Regional Treatment Center campus appear to be non-existent. Demolition of the buildings is expected to begin sometime after Oct. 10.
Ever since the focus of treating people with serious mental health issues shifted from large institutional facilities to smaller community-based sites Brainerd area leaders have hoped and worked for the possibility of a large-scale commercial or nonprofit venture that would fill the void at the once-busy campus. That day, it’s clear, will never come.
Exhaustive efforts to find new tenants have been pursued for years by elected officials and groups such as the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. There’s been no shortage of ideas on potential tenants but each entity that looked into the site eventually determined that it wasn’t a good fit.
Currently the RTC site is home to a MnCARE administrative program, Minnesota Neuro-rehabilitation Services and Community Addiction Recovery Enterprises.
Though specific buildings at the RTC site are structurally sound the cost of bringing them up to code has been a detriment to plans for using them.
The buildings’ destruction will mark the end of an era which began in 1958 when Brainerd was thrilled to be named the site of a state hospital. Many patients were helped at that location and many workers had long, successful careers at the old state hospital site. The loss of the buildings doesn’t diminish those positive points. Also, there’s still hope that once the buildings are torn down and removed from campus the location might attract developers who are more interested in constructing a building from scratch to suit their own particular needs.