For fans of building demolitions and heavy machinery, the Hennepin County Medical Center offers a spectacle next week with the takedown of a submarine-style hyperbaric chamber.
For at least a couple of weeks, a demolition crew has been removing the building surrounding the 1964 hyperbaric chamber at 5th Street and Portland Avenue S. Passersby and commuters on the light-rail line can view the progress.
The grand finale likely comes Monday or Tuesday, county property manager Greg Moore said. A private contractor, paid $146,000 by the county, has the job. But Moore said the contractor has never removed a hyperbaric chamber, so they’re not sure yet how it’s going to work.
An excavator will be tried first, using the shovel as a battering ram to flatten, then remove the steel-gray chamber. If that doesn’t work, the contractor will use hydraulic scissors to take it apart. “We’ll find out pretty quickly,” Moore said. “With a few whacks, they should know whether the excavator works.”
The chamber is about a half-inch thick steel with bulkheads and braces supporting the inside. It’s 60 feet long and 16 feet in diameter.
The future of the plot of land is unknown. For now, Moore said, the corner will be covered in grass and become a temporary park.
HCMC opened a $10 million modern hyperbaric facility last year covered in serene hues of bubbly blue — nothing like the foreboding tank gray of the old facility.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy pumps 100 percent oxygen into patients to aid healing and emergency care. The chambers fight off a plethora of maladies, including necrotizing fasciitis, gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness and foot ulcers in diabetic patients.
The HCMC facility is open 24/7 and always under physician supervision. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis also have chambers, but they aren’t open as many hours.