Mizzou North, the 40-acre property two miles from MU’s campus and the former site of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, will be put up for sale.
Vice Chancellor Gary Ward announced plans to put Mizzou North on the market at a special UM System Board of Curators meeting Tuesday, though when it might happen is still uncertain.
MU Health’s website described the 80-year-old, seven-story building — now considered a Columbia Historic Property — as a layered chocolate cake, with each sequential cream-colored story resembling a smaller layer.
Built to house the first state cancer hospital west of the Mississippi River, Mizzou North has offices for several MU departments, including Health Psychology, Anthropology, Molecular Pathology, Engineering and the Law Enforcement Training Institute. The building also contains the museums of Art and Archaeology, and Anthropology.
Art and Archaeology Museum Director Alex Barker and Department of Health Psychology administrator Katrina Rowland work in the building. They said they were not surprised by the announcement.
“The university has been talking about reducing the costs associated with running Mizzou North for quite some time,” Barker said. “Mizzou North was a very expensive building to operate, and they were hoping to find ways of reducing the cost of operating facilities, especially those off-campus.”
UM spokesman Christian Basi said there is no timeline for when the property will be placed on the market and that campus leaders are still moving forward with the process.
“We don’t know where we’ll move,” Rowland said. “No one knows.”
Rowland said there was some concern within the building about the possibility of programs being cut.
“The question came up: What if they just decide to dissolve the department and don’t find a place for us on campus?” she said. “I don’t see that happening because we see patients and we have some patients booked out for like six months, so I don’t see that happening, but then again, I could be wrong.”
Ward announced the plan while providing an update to the board on the review of available space on MU’s campus. Basi said this review includes whether a building has outlived its life expectancy and a periodic assessment of available spaces on campus.
Basi said campus leaders have looked at selling the property “as a serious option” the past several months.
“One of the big pieces of real estate that we own is Mizzou North, and there are several issues with it,” Basi said.
Along with maintenance of the property, Basi said one issue with Mizzou North is its proximity to campus. The property sits about two miles north of MU, on the north side of Business Loop 70 at 115 Business Loop 70 W.
“When you have people who are that far off campus working closely with folks who are on campus, it can become a struggle, and it can make things inefficient,” he said.
One of the goals of placing the building on the market is to get as many people back to campus as possible, Basi said.
“We’re estimating that we would save approximately $1.3 million in operating costs from that building each year,” he said.
He said the money saved from the property could result in fewer cuts or potential investments in other academic areas.
History of the Mizzou North building
The building at Mizzou North was erected in 1938 and dedicated as the Ellis Fischel State Cancer Hospital on April 26, 1940.
During its first year of operation, the 85-bed hospital was used to treat more than 1,000 patients. According to MU Health’s website, the hospital’s original mission was to treat Missouri residents unable to pay for their care.
In 1990, Ellis Fischel merged with MU, and cancer physicians at MU Hospital relocated to the center. In the 2000s, MU Health Care decided that the then-septuagenarian building needed to be replaced, and in 2013, Ellis Fischel moved to its current location on the south side of the MU campus.
In the fall of 2013, the Museum of Art and Archaeology was relocated to Mizzou North because of concerns about radiation from radium research that lingered in its previous location at Pickard Hall. The move and renovations took more than a year and a half to complete, and while parts of the museum were open to the public in 2014, the full renovation was not done until April 2015. The cost of the move and the preparation of the museum was $1.5 million.
After moving out of Swallow Hall in 2014, the Museum of Anthropology also reopened at Mizzou North last fall.
Despite not knowing when the property will be placed on the market, Barker said he was looking forward to moving the museums back to MU’s campus.
“We’re an academic museum,” he said. “Our purpose is to serve the faculty and students of the University of Missouri and to be a part of the intellectual life of campus, and while we do our best to accomplish that goal here, it would be much easier if folks could simply drop by between classes instead of taking a two-mile hike up to Mizzou North.”
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.