Two of the nine historic homes on the University of Connecticut campus will be spared the wrecking ball, according to an agreement reached by the State Historic Preservation Office, the university, and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
The homes, which have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988, housed students, faculty, and at one time Greek fraternities and sororities. Four currently house administrative offices. The homes were constructed between 1900 and 1920, but the University of Connecticut wanted to tear them down to create green space.
Under the agreement reached Tuesday, UConn will stabilize and maintain two of the nine houses previously slated for demolition and develop a plan for their reuse within five years. In exchange, the university will be permitted to move forward with an accelerated demolition schedule on the remaining seven houses.
“Under this new agreement, the long-range preservation planning commitments made by the University of Connecticut represent a critical step forward in efforts to identify and integrate historic resources into campus planning and construction at the earliest possible stage,” Daniel Mackay, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, said. “We look forward to supporting UConn and the State Preservation Office to implement a more comprehensive and effective preservation plan.”
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said the agreement is an example of “how effective collaboration can result in improved outcomes.”
Demolition of four of the structures is expected to commence before the end of the year.
“We’re pleased that this agreement will allow UConn to continue to meet the goals of its Master Plan for the future while also respecting elements of our past,” Laura Cruickshank, UConn’s chief architect and master planner, said. “The spirit of collaboration during these discussions is a good example of ways in which state agencies and private groups can work together toward solutions that address the concerns of all sides.”
Demolition of the homes were delayed this summer following outcry from historians and preservationists.
Margaret Faber, a member of the Historic Preservation Council, said she’s disappointed with the deal.
“Obviously saving two houses is better than none, and for that I am grateful, but the context of Faculty Row is its primary significance. The conglomeration of buildings and mature plantings on Gilbert and Whitney Roads creates a narrative and if we lose 7 of these structures its meaning will also be lost,” Faber said Wednesday. “In this case the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and I was hoping for a different result.”
The university claimed it would cost approximately $1 million dollars per house to renovate or rehabilitate them.