Gov. Chris Christie announced plans in late 2011 to remediate and convert Greystone Park in Parsippany, about 165 acres. The park includes a sewage treatment plant, wetlands and the original psychiatric hospital, which closed in 2008.
This plan is moving forward as state officials said last week that they are demolishing the rest of the buildings after receiving six formal expressions of interest from private groups, which are looking to redevelop the decaying Kirkbride Building, according to the Daily Record, adding that the demolition cost for the remaining 60 buildings is $50.7 million.
Greystone, built in 1876, was constructed as part of the Kirkbride Plan, according to the Kirkbride Building website. The plan, championed by Philadelphia psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride in the med-19th century, advocated moving patients from county jails, private homes and basements of public buildings into state mental hospitals. These hospitals followed a typical floor plan that included long rambling wings staggered so each connected wing received sunlight and fresh air that was meant to promote privacy and comfort for patients. The building form itself was meant to have a curative effect.
The asylums tended to be large, imposing, Victorian-era institutional buildings within extensive surrounding grounds, which often included farmland, sometimes worked by patients as part of physical exercise and therapy. While the vast majority were located in the United States, similar facilities were built in Canada, and a psychiatric hospital in Australia was influenced by Kirkbride's recommendations. By 1900 the notion of "building-as-cure" was largely discredited, and in the following decades these large facilities became too expensive to maintain.
Bill Quinn, spokesman for the state Treasury Department, told the Daily Record the Treasury Department is still open to ideas about how the remaining historic buildings at Greystone could be saved. But after reviewing the six formal expressions of interest it received in the spring, the state still does not see a way to make redevelopment a feasible alternative.
Demolition could begin as early as February 2014, Quinn said.
The state has posted six proposals they’ve vetted online and they include two groups that claim to have full funding in place. Auto Mart, Inc., the company behind the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV (another Kirkbride building), wants to convert the place into a museum and paranormal tour program.
Other plans include a business center that includes a working farm, renewable energy, tourism, recreation and education programs and the Greystone Community Innovation Team in Basking Ridge, which proposes housing along with businesses, hospitality, educational facilities, agriculture and a museum.
The old hospital complex was under scrutiny on and off during its more than 100 year history. Most famously, the escape of a convicted rapist sparked controversy back in 1999, about the proper placement of high-risk offenders.
Greystone’s operations were moved to a newly constructed facility in 2008.
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