PARSIPPANY (AP) - New Jersey has awarded a $34 million contract for the demolition and site restoration of the historic Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County.

Published reports indicate that the state issued a notice to allow the project to begin on Thursday. It's expected to be finished in about 18 months.

The winning bid from New York-based Northstar Contracting Group was lower than the $50 million the state originally estimated it could cost. The company will demolish the historic Kirkbride Building, among other structures.

Preservationists had sought to save all or part of the 678,000-square-foot building.

The hospital was a state-of-the-art psychiatric facility in the late 19th century. It was ordered closed by then-Gov. Christie Whitman due to dwindling numbers of patients and incidents of on-campus assaults and escapes.