BLOOMINGTON — New life is being breathed into the American Red Cross Serving Central Illinois building in Bloomington.

The 28-year-old building at 1 Westport Court, still known to many people by its former name of the American Red Cross of the Heartland chapter house, will undergo "a major renovation" to become a Red Cross fixed-site blood donation center, said Lyn Hruska, Red Cross regional CEO for Central and Southern Illinois.

Because floor plans are still being finalized, Trish Burnett, Red Cross regional communications director, told The Pantagraph this week that the agency wasn't ready to release a construction cost estimate.

But Hruska said, "This is a reinvestment in our community.

"It's our commitment to remain in this community and continue to provide all the services while enhancing our ability to collect a stable blood supply." 

Red Cross services offered in the building — including blood services, disaster relief services and health and safety training — will continue, Hruska said.

Eight full-time employees will continue to be based in the building and there will be work space for two other regional employees and volunteers, Hruska said.

"All staff currently housed here will continue to be based here," she said.

The main floor of the building will be gutted and renovated into a blood donation center. Offices, a classroom and storage space now on the main floor will be moved to the lower level after that is renovated.

The lower level is now used for blood donation, a second classroom and storage.

Moving blood donation to the first floor will mean more space and easier access for donors, volunteers and staff, Hruska and Burnett said. Nearly 14,000 units of blood were collected in McLean County last year. 

"Our goals are to provide a better donor experience and, ultimately, to collect more blood and blood products here in Central Illinois," Hruska said.

The lower level blood donation center has blood drives on Mondays and Fridays and apheresis drives once a month. Opening a larger blood donation center upstairs will mean expanded hours for blood donation, but those specifics haven't been determined yet, Hruska said.

The decision to enhance blood services is timely, Burnett said.

"There is nationwide shortage of blood and this (renovation) will make it easier for people to donate," she said.

Red Cross also doesn't need as much office space as it did several years ago when it had 18 full- and part-time employees based in the Bloomington building. That number declined as Red Cross moved to regionalize services.

Red Cross staff is packing supplies this week and the building will be turned over to the construction project team on Feb. 19, Hruska said.

Red Cross services will continue during the transition, but staff will be working from temporary locations, she said. The local Red Cross phone number will remain 309-662-0500.

The goal is to continue blood drives on the lower level during renovation of the main level. If that doesn't work, Red Cross will find an alternate location during construction, Hruska said.

Renovation of the main level should be completed by July 1. Then work will shift to the lower level, with that being completed by Sept. 1, Hruska said.

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Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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