North Central Health Care plans for $73 million expansion

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Stakeholders and residents have two opportunities for public input on the $73 million expansion plan for North Central Health Care in Wausau.

Tuesday, the health institution received approval from Wausau's Planning Committee to continue with the designs. They'll also have to get the county board's approval as well and meet several zoning requirements. NCHC is also facing push back from residents who live just outside the campus' current perimeter.

Under the current plans for the expansion, two proposed new buildings would directly border the neighborhood, but Michael Loy, CEO of NCHC, said he's willing to pull back those buildings as far as is reasonable. He hopes, however, to change some of the minds of the residents.

"We want to make this a place where people are comfortable to come in and out of-- that it's not just a care environment. To the degree we can do it, we'll accommodate some changes but we want to make this a great place where it's part of the neighborhood," he said.

Loy, who was a figurehead during the Wausau Chamber of Commerce's presentation of their Greater Wausau Region Economic Strategic Development Plan, is invested in the concept of placemaking for the region.

He and other NCHC employees have chosen to incorporate placemaking features into the expansion. For the neighbors and for the general public, it means the expansion could become a destination beyond health care needs.

For example, the expansion accounts for a new community pool and the construction of a bistro. Renderings of the expansion show space for walking trails. Those will likely be used to navigate NCHC’s large campus but also a path for the residents can use.

The features are just part of Loy's mission to take the stigma out of visiting health care institution and needing help in the first place.

"Every family deals with these issues; issues of aging, issues of illness. We want [North Central Health Care] to be a place where they can come and feel comfortable and feel like it's their community resource," Loy said.

If plans go through as proposed and construction is completed as scheduled, the ribbon cutting would be held just in time to also celebrate NCHC's 50th anniversary.

There are two community input sessions on April 4 and April 11. Both are at North Central Health Care in the theater from 5:30-8 p.m.