On July 19, the University announced plans to demolish the old ‘Faculty Row’ houses. The set of 9 brown houses, located by South Campus, is otherwise known as ‘Greek Row.’ There is no current timeframe, or estimated budget, for the demolition.
Fences have since gone up around these some of these structures. The affected offices, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Academic Services Center, the Design Center Studio, and the Institute of Public and Urban Affairs, have all been relocated to surrounding buildings.
“We’re removing asbestos from the structures,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “We must limit outside access for safety purposes.”
“Even if the houses were rehabilitated, the University has no practical use for them,” said spokesperson Tom Breen. “Our campus, like all campuses, must grow and evolve over time to adapt to the changing needs of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. There are many historic structures in the central part of campus that should and must be preserved and maintained even as the campus changes, but the brown houses are not among them.”
Despite this, groups have sprung up in an attempt to preserve these structures. At least one petition on ipetitions.com, called Save UCONN’s Faculty Row, gathered 125 comments and 294 signatures. The signatories have included various UConn faculty members, administrators, alumni, and the Chairperson of the Mansfield Historic District Commission.
Dr. Margaret McCutcheon Faber, a member of Connecticut’s Historic Preservation Council, has been spearheading this preservation effort.
“These nine buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That means that they are significant to our collective story- not just locally or statewide, but nationally,” said Faber. “They are subject to protection from ‘unreasonable destruction’ under Connecticut’s Environmental Protection Act.”
Their petition has since been submitted to UConn President Susan Herbst.
“Adaptive re-use of any sort would be desirable,” said Faber. “At the heart of the University, near the pond, they are perfectly placed to lend some historic charm to the otherwise industrial character of the campus.”
As previously reported by the Daily Campus on April 8, Faculty Row was added to the State and Federal Registries of Historic Places in 1989, they are a part of the University of Connecticut Historic District. However, this does not prevent them from being torn down. At the time, University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz had said that the future uses of these buildings “remains under review.”
Dr. Thomas B. Roberts, an UConn alum agrees with Faber concerning the preservation of these buildings.
“The Faculty Row area would be a welcome addition/attachment to UConn’s Great Lawn,” Roberts wrote in an open letter to Herbst. “The houses there as a group would be a fine location for a UConn Historical Museum, each house (or half house) becoming, say, the museum for 20 years of UConn’s history.”
According to University Spokesperson Tom Breen, the estimated cost for rehabilitation and renovation of these buildings is $9 million. This is a significant increase from the 2007 estimate of $1.4 million for the first stage of proposed renovation, according to the Capital Budget. The University’s Office of Capital Budget Planning cancelled the proposed renovation in 2012.
“The area is going to become green space under the university’s Master Plan,” Breen said. “The Master Plan always called for this to be park-like green space at some point, with walkways, grass, plantings, benches. There are already a number of mature trees in the area for shade cover.”
The money for this demolition and remodel will come from the Capital Budget. This budget is dedicated to “funding resources to program campus projects”, and “capital projects related to the development , planning, and funding of UConn major investments,” according to the office’s website.
In early June 2016, an agreement was reached between the University and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to allow the demolition. It was signed by both the director of SHPO, and the University’s Chief Architect. Demolition of the historic structures was allowed as long as the houses were “recorded for documentation standards.” The exact requirements for this prerequisite are unclear.
“Even if the houses were rehabilitated, the University has no practical use for them,” said University Spokesperson Tom Breen. “Our campus, like all campuses, must grow and evolve over time to adapt to the changing needs of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. There are many historic structures in the central part of campus that should and must be preserved and maintained even as the campus changes, but the brown houses are not among them.”
According to Breen, “the demolition requires a fair amount of hazardous materials abatement that we’re still getting costs on, but once that’s settled we’ll have a better idea of how long this will take.”
Sarah McNeal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.