Claims that WMU will begin demolition on three of its original buildings on East Campus as early as May have no basis in fact, according to the university.
Earlier in this month, members of the East Campus advocacy group, Friends of Historic East Campus, posted an image on the front page of their website urging citizens to stop the administration’s plans to demolish North Hall, West Hall and the Speech and Hearing Building. The poster said that wrecking crews would begin work atop Prospect Hill on May 1 of this year.
The information spread among others in the community concerned with the fate of the trio of buildings, and was eventually picked up by another website, saveeastcampus.com.
However, reports of such an early start date are false, said WMU Spokeswoman Cheryl Roland.
“That information was wildly inaccurate,” Roland said. “I have no idea where that date came from.”
Roland said the university has not even found any prospective vendors to carry out the demolitions. It’s first priority concerning East Campus is transferring the contents of the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections from their current home inside East and North Hall to the university’s new archive facility, located further down Oakland Drive. This project is expected to begin in the fall, as the new storage structure remains under construction.
FOHEC has since removed the mention of a start date to the image on their site, due to the fact that the organization’s leadership hadn’t verified the information with WMU officials prior to publishing it.
“One of our members got the idea that demolition would start on May 1,” said FOHEC Chairman David Brose. “They communicated that, unfortunately, to one of our other members who was putting together that poster, so it it first went up on the website and had that wrong date.”
Brose said his organization only publishes information that its members, the university or other reputable sources confirm as fact, and that he has urged his members to ignore any unsubstantiated rumors.
FOHEC has a been vocal opponent to the planned demolitions since the administration first announced their East Campus redevelopment plan last December. After a number of stalled attempts to renovate the century-old structures for modern use, the school is borrowing $15 million to turn the core of East Hall, WMU’s first official hall, into an alumni center. However, the university plans to raze its younger neighbors, turning the space they currently occupy into parking and green space.
In response to the news, FOHEC wrote an open letter to the WMU Board of Trustees, inquiring about the costs of demolishing the structures versus long term maintenance. Jan Van Der Kley, head of WMU’s Business and Finance office, publicly responded to their letter, writing that the administration expects to spend $2.3 million to bring down the three structures.
Despite the controversy, WMU intends to continue to inform the public of any developments concerning the buildings on East Campus, Roland said.
“The university is being extraordinarily transparent in this process,” she said.