UPDATE: City staff recommends preserving buildings in way of Central work

UPDATE: City staff recommends preserving buildings in way of Central work

CHAMPAIGN — It’s just the first step down a long road, but members of one city department are siding with preservationists in their push to keep Unit 4 from demolishing three historic properties on West Church Street.

The school district bought them and plans to do away with them to make way for an expanded Central High School. The local Preservation and Conservation Association wants them to stay where they are.

The city’s planning staff agrees with PACA and has recommended that the properties be deemed historic local landmarks, which would make them off-limits.

If the city’s Historic Preservation Commission acts on that recommendation when it meets Thursday, PACA would still need to win two more rounds — votes by the city plan commission, then the city council — for the three properties to be spared.

Unit 4 bought the Bailey House (606 W. Church St.), Burnham House (603 W. Church) and Phillippe Mansion/McKinley Family YMCA (500 W. Church) after district voters approved a six-school, $183.4 million referendum in November, the centerpiece of which was an expanded Central High School.

A map of all the properties the district bought for Central's expansion is below:

PACA has argued that the district wasn’t up front about the need to bulldoze the historic structures.

Unit 4 board President Chris Kloeppel denied that in a recent interview with WDWS. Acknowledging that “this is a really sensitive subject for some people,” he added that the district was transparent from the start, including a reference to expansion in the wording of the referendum.

Unit 4 is “not ignoring the historic significance” of the three properties, Kloeppel said. “We are keeping Central there and that is also an old, beautiful, historic building.”

Kloeppel said Friday he plans to attend Thursday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting and would “participate as appropriate.”

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