Representatives of 27 nonprofit agencies began to empty out the former Clarion Hotel and Conference Center today.

While many were happy to receive the free items for use by their agencies — including items ranging from tables and chairs to lamps and furnishings — the process was also sobering.

That was as people learned Columbus Regional Health would raze the entire 156,000-square-foot Clarion facility at 2480 W. Jonathan Moore Pike later this year.

As nonprofit representatives arrived Thursday to pick out items they wanted, several recalled anniversaries, holiday decorations, family get-togethers, organizational meetings or pool parties they had enjoyed at the facility since its 1963 opening.

Jim Bickel, the hospital’s president and CEO, acknowledged that the facility, which was a Holiday Inn until early 2012, has historical and nostalgic significance, while serving a functional community need.

But the physical structure has deteriorated far more than most people know, Bickel said.

“Sections are unstable and unsafe,” the hospital chief said. “Critical utility and support systems are either not functioning or in major disrepair, along with other extremely poor general conditions.”

For more on this story, see Saturday’s Republic.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.