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UND demolitions could be completed for fall term

314 Cambridge is home to one tenant, KFJM radio, and has had a variety of uses in the past, including housing. The UND building is being transistioned to offline. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND could begin demolishing a set of eight campus buildings of varying historic interest by late summer, said a university facilities leader.

Mike Pieper, UND associate vice president for facilities, said the university is now conducting environmental assessments and is working with an architectural firm to write bid specifications for the actual demolition work of a list of properties announced in late January. The State Board of Higher Education approved at its Thursday meeting a UND request to raze all eight of the buildings, which are among a list of 13 being phased out by the university to reduce deferred maintenance costs while shrinking the campus footprint.

The buildings now due for the wrecking ball are: 2912 University Ave.; Chandler Hall; the UND Women's Center building; 314 Cambridge; 317 Cambridge; the International Center building; the Strinden Center; and the Era Bell Thompson Center.

"The hope is to get them down this summer and start getting some grass growing this fall on the sites," Pieper said.

He said the likely exception to that timeline is Chandler Hall, the demolition of which will probably wait until next year. All in all, he said the eight demolitions have been budgeted at about $1.2 million.

The fate of the five buildings not currently scheduled for demolition—a list including Gustafson Hall, Montgomery Hall, Center for Community Engagement, Robertson/Sayre Hall and Corwin/Larimore Hall—will likely not be decided for some months to come, Pieper said.

After declaring its intent to demolish the eight buildings, UND submitted the list of properties to the State Historical Society of North Dakota for an assessment of historic significance. The campus as a whole is listed as a historic district with the National Register of Historic Places, though not every university building is noted as historic in its own right.

Lorna Meidinger, an architectural historian with the historical society, said her office has concluded that three of the buildings now headed for demolition—2912 University Ave., Chandler Hall and the Women's Center—contribute to the history of the district. The remaining five, Meidinger said, are not considered by the society to be historically significant.

In a letter sent by the historical society to UND, state historic preservation officer Claudia Berg writes that Chandler Hall is "structurally in danger already and not feasible to save with its historic character intact."

The historical society didn't request that UND attempt to preserve the hall or the other two buildings noted as significant, but instead asked for a mitigation plan centered partly on the Era Bell Thompson Center. Though that building wasn't considered to contribute to the wider historic district, Berg said the center was at one time used as the home of the university's Black Student Union.

The reasoning for why the building itself is no longer believed to historically significant is due to physical changes made to the structure over time which have eroded its historic integrity, Meidinger said. To capture the story of the building's past use, she added, the historical society has requested a mitigation plan which calls on UND to compile the history of the center to preserve its legacy after the demolition.

The society has also requested the university establish a "tiered guide of historic importance" for campus buildings, a listing to be determined by a committee including members of UND staff, the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission and the State Historical Society. As requested by the society, that guide would identify key UND buildings believed to "really tell the story of the university," said Meidinger.

The guide would also ideally serve a role in future strategic planning involving UND properties.

Jeff Wencl, coordinator of the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission and a master's candidate at UND, spoke favorably of the initiatives laid out in the requests.

"We hate seeing buildings lost," Wencl said, "but if stuff has to be lost, we want to see that there's proper mitigation."

He said the commission was turning its thoughts to the promise of having a seat at the table in identifying campus buildings of high historic priority.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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