Baystate Health taps a developer to advance possible reuse of shuttered Ware hospital

MassLive (March 27, 2023)

Jim Kinney |

WARE – The future of a landmark property in Ware is a little clearer.

A regional developer has been tapped to help Baystate Health Systems think through possible reuse of the former Baystate Mary Lane Hospital property at 85 South St.

The move comes as the town itself begins to solicit public opinion on redevelopment of the site.

Westmass Area Development Corp. will work with Baystate to decommission the old hospital.

“I think Westmass would have an interest in redeveloping it,” said Jeff Daley, the group’s president and CEO. “What they need is speculative at this point. As of now, it’s a little early to tell.”

The town, meantime, hired HKT Architects of Charlestown with a $70,000 state grant to prepare conceptual drawings, do engineering work and host public meetings about the potential reuse of the site, said Stuart Beckley, the Ware town manager. The meetings will begin in May. No dates have been set.

“It’s right next to a new senior housing complex,” Beckley said. “It would be great for mixed-use, housing, recreational fields.

At 21 acres, the property slopes down from busy South Street to the banks of the Ware River. It has five buildings, the largest of which is 131,000 square feet. The oldest parts of the complex date back to about 1914, according to town records. The town has it assessed at $12 million.

Baystate Health announced in January 2021 its planned to close Mary Lane – which by then was an outpatient center only, saying at the time the complex needed about $5 million in upgrades.

Baystate closed inpatient units at Mary Lane in 2016. Baystate bought former competitor Wing Memorial Hospital from the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester in 2013.

Baystate said just 28 patients per day were seeking care at Mary Lane’s emergency room. And of those, over 85 percent arrived with minor, non-urgent conditions that could be treated in a primary care setting

In 2021, Baystate had about 80 employees at Mary Lane. They all had the opportunity to get new positions within the 12,000-person Baystate workforce.

The shutdown was to happen over two years, with the emergency room the first to go dark. That happened in June 2021. Baystate shifted most patients and services to Baystate Wing in Palmer, nine miles away.

Oncology was relocated to the D’Amour Center for Cancer Care in Springfield.

As of Monday, Baystate said it has just a few departments with offices on the Mary Lane site: radiology, a laboratory and obstetrics and gynecology.

Daley said Baystate is building out new offices for those departments at Wing and they should all move by the end of this year.

In a news release Monday, Baystate said it and Westmass have told the town their timelines for abatement work in some of the vacant buildings — and will submit a permit later this month for the demolition of some buildings.

The demolition permit process in the town of Ware can take up to nine months for final approval, so demolition probably wouldn’t happen before early 2024.

But not all the buildings may be demolished, Daley said.

“We are looking at adaptive reuse,” he said. “If there is a way to reuse these buildings in a new development, we will.”

It’s similar, Daley said, to Ludlow Mills, Westmass Development Corp.’s $140-million-plus ongoing redevelopment of a 130-acre industrial site with 50 historic mill buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet of space.

“We are there (in Ludlow) abating hazards and demolishing unusable buildings while doing adaptive reuse,” Daley said. “I think there is an opportunity. … Ware is a small community. But there is an opportunity to do something nice.”

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