Hold on a Minute … Where’d that Building Go?

Posted on Nov 6, 2013 in Campus News and News

One of Mount Oread’s rarest transformations has suddenly brightened Jayhawk Boulevard: the creation of open green space.

In August, the University razed the century-old eyesore that for more than a decade had been used only for storage, ever since University Relations (now Marketing Communications) moved next door into the red-brick Wesley Building, the former home of Hilltop Child Development Center. The newly freed lot between the Wesley Building and Grace Pearson Scholarship Hall has since been terraced and seeded with grass, creating an inviting open area between Louisiana Street and Jayhawk Boulevard.

“It contributes to the landscape of the University, the way it’s set right now,” says Jim Modig, director of the Office of Design & Construction Management. “We probably need to do a little more landscaping in there, but we’ll let that kind of evolve over time.”

Exactly how long it will remain open space remains to be seen. The University is currently working on a revised campus master plan (www.dcm.ku.edu/plan-progress), and it’s possible the space might be tagged for development. Modig says one project previously considered for the site was a companion building to Dyche Hall that could house biodiversity programs, exhibits and collection storage. Results of the campus master plan are expected to be announced in January.

“There’s been nothing final about what’s going to go in there in the future,” Modig says. “It may just stay nice green space.”

Also on Modig’s wish list is a cleanup of the unkempt area behind the Wesley Building, which would continue the welcomed improvement of the aesthetics of Mount Oread’s eastern slope.

“But when we’ve got $300 million of deferred maintenance,” Modig says, “we haven’t got a whole lot that we can sink in there.”

The building razed in August was built in 1915 as a teaching lab for students from the School of Education known as Oread High School. Later renamed University High School, it was closed in 1950 and the space refitted for a faculty club. KU Endowment moved in in the late 1960s, until departing for Youngberg Hall on West Campus in 1976. That’s when University Relations moved in, until relocating next door in 2001, when Hilltop Child Development Center moved to its new home on Daisy Hill.

The white, wooden building, which in its crumbling condition gave the appearance of sliding down the Hill, had since been used for storage, and was filled with mold and asbestos.

The only other KU buildings razed in recent years were Lindley Annex, a “temporary” structure moved onto campus in 1947 and used as an architecture outpost until it was finally demolished in 2005, and the old Multicultural Resource Center, a termite-infested wooden structure adjacent to the Military Science Building razed after the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center opened in 2008.

“Those facilities were way past their prime,” Modig says. “They were beyond help.”

The new green space between Jayhawk Boulevard and Louisiana Street has proven so popular for student access to and from campus that Modig thinks a path already worn into the grass will likely be improved with a new sidewalk and steps.

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–Chris Lazzarino

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