The University of Illinois is putting a hold on demolishing old buildings, to the relief of preservationists. Preservationists say the university once allowed them access to outdated structures before they were torn down in order to salvage architectural items that could be reused. In recent years, however, they claim to have been shut out of the process.
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“We started discovering that they were just tearing things down and not talking to anybody, not saving anything,” said Tom Garza, executive director of the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County. Garza said that has resulted in useful doors, windows, lighting fixtures and other items ending up in a landfill. Garza estimates that the university tears down about six buildings a year that contain reusable items.
Addressing those concerns, University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise has put a temporary hold on demolishing older buildings. Garza hopes that will lead to greater community involvement in these decisions. “At the least, we want someone, not necessarily ourselves, not even necessarily a preservationist, but just somebody to be given the opportunity when a place is going to be torn down to go in and take out things that can be reused,” Garza said.
Garza said his organization would remove those items at no cost to the university.