<strong>Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean accepts the donation for the city as Mercy CEO Lynn Britton stands by.</strong><br /><br /><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><span style="font-size: xx-small;">JTBJ Photo by DAVID MINK</span></span><hr />
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean accepts the donation for the city as Mercy CEO Lynn Britton stands by.

St. Louis-based Mercy yesterday announced plans to donate the health system's former 50-acre St. John's campus in Joplin to three Joplin groups. The hospital was destroyed during the May 22, 2011, tornado that hit the city.

The former hospital site is being gifted as a multipurpose cultural complex for Joplin, divided between Joplin schools, the Joplin Museum Complex and the Stained Glass Theatre of Joplin. New construction will begin when the last of the buildings are cleared, as early as September 2012, according to a news release.

“This is hallowed land that no longer belongs to Mercy but to the story of Joplin, of residents enduring a massive disaster by coming together to rebuild and move forward," said Gary Pulsipher, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin, in the release. “We hope new uses of the campus can weave together as sort of a healing quilt for the city.”

The property became available after Mercy decided to rebuild a few miles away at a site along Interstate 44. The new Mercy Hospital Joplin would be the cornerstone of nearly $1 billion that Mercy has committed toward rebuilding its medical complex, including interim structures and maintaining the payroll for employees.

Demolition began at the south end of the old campus to make room for its first new use - Irving Elementary School, which will replace two of the six public schools destroyed by the storm. Ground was broken May 22 for Irving Elementary.

About a dozen acres of the St. John’s campus will be used for classrooms, playgrounds and green areas. The remaining 30 acres are designated for the Stained Glass Theatre, with an indoor auditorium and an outdoor amphitheater, and a new educational museum complex for the city of Joplin, which would highlight the city's history and community strengths, Pulsipher said in the release.

Plans also include a pedestrian bridge between the cultural complex and Joplin's Cunningham Park.  

“We are thrilled at the chance to provide the land that one day may include a meaningful center for the benefit of the entire region,” said Sister Cabrini Koelsch, director of mission services for the Joplin hospital, in the release.