Members of the Historic Preservation Commission voiced concerns about parts of MU’s Strategic Space Reduction and Relocation Plan during its meeting Tuesday at Daniel Boone City Building.
The plan aims to consolidate space and save money by demolishing or divesting 750,000 square feet of existing structures on campus by 2023, according to the plan’s website.
Six MU buildings are listed for future demolition under the plan: Old Student Health, Columbia Professional Building, Loeb Hall, Parker Hall, Noyes Hall and London Hall. Two buildings have already been demolished during Phase 1 of the plan: the Fine Arts Annex in February 2017 and the Research Park Development Building in August 2019.
While the plan is ongoing, only Loeb and London halls have been discussed for demolition in the next year, MU employee and commission member Amanda Staley Harrison said.
“There was no mention of any other demos, just that there would be more to come after those two,” Harrison said. “I see that as maybe helpful to buy us a little bit of time to raise awareness and concern.”
The commission’s main concerns, however, are not Loeb and London halls. Members are more focused on Parker and Noyes, the two buildings that made up the original hospital, commission member Pat Fowler said.
After several donors and community members raised enough money, MU started building Parker Memorial Hospital in the late 1800s, according to the university’s archives.
The back side of Parker housed the operating theater, where surgeons taught medical students.
“While it seems very simplistic by our standards today for modern surgical suites,” Fowler said, “it still is a good example of the history of how some of the community’s medical needs were met.”
Bill Hart, the director of Missouri Preservation, was the first to bring MU’s demolition plans to the commission’s attention. During its meeting Tuesday, Hart phoned in and questioned whether or not there was “any room to change hearts and minds.”
Before the commission can change hearts and minds, however, Fowler said she needs more information.
“I have a lot more work to do to understand the university’s point of view on this, but my first reaction is, ‘Don’t take down the original hospital,’” she said.
For now, the commission intends to ask the Columbia City Council to examine MU’s next master plan, which it is required to submit and update regularly for approval.
“We absolutely have an interest in being part of the conversation in front of council about their master plan,” Fowler said.
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