Financing snag puts deal to move Burnham Mansion on ropes

Financing snag puts deal to move Burnham Mansion on ropes

CHAMPAIGN — The on-again, off-again effort to save the Burnham Mansion appears to be off again.

In an email Friday, preservationist Chris Enck said he hit a “snag a couple of days ago with the financing” of the project.

“We have a pretty firm scope of work for the Burnham House, but the bank didn’t have enough information for what would happen on the other half of the site,” Enck wrote. “Because of this, they had to attribute the entire land value to the Burnham House, which threw the numbers off and would require a lot more immediate equity, essentially stalling the loan process until we either had a more firm scope or more money up front, both of which take time.”

Enck, a UI architecture grad, faced a Friday deadline to close on the property at 501 W. Church St., C, where he planned to move the 134-year-old mansion.

The move was originally supposed to be done by July 15, but the Champaign school board extended that deadline last week to Aug. 10.

That’s a hard deadline, Board President Chris Kloeppel said Friday.

“At the last board meeting, we talked about this being the last extension,” Kloeppel said. “Those deadlines are firm.”

Since Enck ran into the financing snag, he said he’s been meeting with people in town to come up with a solution.

“At one point, it seemed there was someone local who was willing to step in to pay for the land until we refined the details with the bank,” he wrote. “But that appears to have fallen through as of yesterday afternoon.”

Enck faces another deadline Monday to show the district a bill of sale, and appears to be running out of options.

“Unfortunately, short of someone purchasing the land outright quickly or a temporary location for the house to sit while we finalize the details, I don’t know how we can proceed from here,” he wrote. “As you can imagine, I am extremely disappointed by the current status as many have put in so much time and effort over the last two months and I know there are a lot of people locally who are excited about the project that I hate to disappoint.”

Despite the snag, Enck told The News-Gazette he’s still holding out hope.

“I’m giving it my all to see if we can come up with a solution, to see if we can keep the project moving along,” he said. “I still really want the project to succeed.”

Enck said he had been making progress to begin moving the mansion from its site at 603 W. Church St. to the empty lot a block away.

“The contractor removed the pipes from the basement this week and the moving contractor was set to begin their work on Monday,” he wrote. “There are two semi trucks full of materials loaded in Pennsylvania that were set to head to Champaign Monday.”

The Burnham Mansion stands in the way of Central High School’s expansion and has been a source of tension between the district and preservationists.

The district bought the property in March 2017 after voters approved a $183 million facilities package that included an expansion of Central.

In December, the Champaign City Council denied a request by local preservationists to grant landmark status to the Burnham Mansion.

That vote paved the way for the expansion, allowing the district to demolish the mansion, but preservationists continued searching for buyers.

In May, the school board reached a deal with Enck to move it, with Enck paying $10 for the structure and Unit 4 contributing $50,000 toward moving costs that otherwise would’ve gone toward demolition.

If Enck doesn’t reach a deal by Monday, the deal will be terminated.

“If it falls through, then we’ll proceed with salvage and demolition of the property,” Kloeppel said. “I was hopeful that he would be able to move it. The board was hopeful, but we’re also coming up on deadlines, so we need to move forward one way or another.”

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