Unit 4 board agrees to extend deadline for moving Burnham to Aug. 10

Unit 4 board agrees to extend deadline for moving Burnham to Aug. 10

CHAMPAIGN — Mark your calendars for Aug. 10.

After two district-set deadlines came and went, the preservationist aiming to save the Burnham Mansion and the Champaign school board decided Monday evening to reset the terms of their agreement.

A unanimous vote gave UI architecture grad Chris Enck the board's blessing in continuing the project despite the missed deadlines, extending the home's move-by date from July 15 to 32 days from now.

Board member Kathy Shannon emphasized Monday that the new timeline is final.

"I appreciate your stepping up on this, but if those deadlines aren't met, it's not going to happen," she told Enck, who was in attendance at the Mellon Administrative Center. "I think it's important that we say this in public: that we are doing what we feel like we have to do, and this is the absolute last we can do."

Last month, Enck shared with The News-Gazette his plans to physically move the 134-year-old Burnham Mansion — which stands in the way of Central High School's expansion — to a now-empty lot at 501 W. Church St., only a block away.

But the closing date for that property is July 20, five days past a district-set deadline which stipulated that Enck would pay $2,500 for each missed day the mansion didn't move.

The new agreement states that Enck has until Aug. 10 to move the building from 603 W. Church down the street — a deadline he himself created and the board OK'd Monday. To prove the project is feasible, Enck said he set another deadline of July 23, when he would have to present the district with a bill of sale for the lot at 501 W. Church St.

"I mean, the whole project is a tight timeline to work with, so setting these smaller deadlines with the overall timeline allows the district to know that we're moving forward and making progress," Enck told The News-Gazette after the meeting.

Board President Chris Kloeppel said protections for the district are built into the agreement. Should Enck fail to provide that documentation by July 23, the entire deal can be terminated, Kloeppel said.

Kloeppel said the progress Enck had made by Monday afternoon showed his commitment to the project.

"That's what we have before us today: We have a drawn-out plan," he told Enck during the meeting. "We have that in front of us now. You've got legitimate skin in the game."

Earlier Monday, Enck provided the district with more details about the move, saying he had been in talks with Ameren Illinois about moving power lines in advance of the relocation.

Board members called the move a possible "win-win" for everyone involved.

"We collectively wanted to set this up," Vice President Amy Armstrong said. "We didn't want to set this up to fail. These are your deadlines. You created the deadlines; we did not. These are deadlines you think you can meet.

"I do hope that all of the voices that have wanted this will step up and help you with the financials you need to save this house."

In addition to Burnham Mansion, Enck hopes to move two other structures to the lot at 501 W. Church St., he revealed recently.

Being circulated among potential investors has been a working budget of $2.5 million to cover the cost of relocating Burnham, as well as the Capt. Edward Bailey house and its carriage house, both of which are at 606 W. Church St. — and redeveloping them into 30 apartments with 30 surface parking spaces.