Western Michigan University Begins Asbestos Abatement and Demolition this Week in the Noble Lodge Building

According to an article this week in Michigan’s M-Live, time is running out on the Noble Lodge building that Western Michigan University plans to tear down, but local preservationists say the historic building has potential for reuse.  The university said it could find no cost-effective reuse for the structure.

 Asbestos abatement and demolition is scheduled for the last days of July and the first week of August.  Demolition will cost $272,461, which includes consultation, testing, asbestos abatement and demolition. 

Originally part of the Kalamazoo State Hospital/Michigan Asylum for the Insane property, Noble Lodge has been standing since approximately 1916. The building was used as a dormitory to house staff and patients. In 2010, WMU purchased the 24,000-square-foot building and its 2.55-acre lot for $1 from the state of Michigan.

According to the WMU spokesman in the article, the interior of Noble Lodge suffers from a plethora of infrastructure problems, including failing steam and power lines, asbestos, lead paint and mold issues.  Local preservationists questioned if WMU really explored all possible options.

Pam O’Connor, a Kalamazoo resident who is past president of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and a current adviser for the National Trust of Historic Preservation said, “I always hate to see materials with embodied energy that went into a building like this thrown away. I think the development community probably knows a little bit more about this kind of thing than the university does and if there are developers interested in a project like this, it should not be taken lightly.”

The Michigan Asylum for the Insane was listed in the State Register of Historic Sites in 1963. Noble Lodge is a designated historic building because it is part of the complex of buildings that made up the asylum campus, said Laura Rose Ashlee, a historian with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.  The historic classification is an honor but does not protect the building from being demolished.

Asbestos abatement is performed commonly in historic structures.  Asbestos abatement performed under strict conditions by a skilled contractor can be quite effective, thereby removing the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.