Burnham Mansion coming down today

Burnham Mansion coming down today

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CHAMPAIGN — Goodbye, Burnham Mansion.

Despite long-lived protests of its demolition and a short-lived plan to spare it, destruction of the 130-year-old home begins in earnest today, according to Champaign school board President Chris Kloeppel, who made the announcement near the end of Monday night's board meeting.

"We, I think, just discovered that this afternoon," he said.

The razing of the home at 603 W. Church St. will make way for the expansion of Central High School — one of six projects approved by voters in a 2016 referendum. The $183.4 million package was the topic of three items on Monday's agenda: approval of estimates for work at South Side Elementary and McKinley Field, as well as construction contracts for other demolition sites near Central.

The board unanimously approved an estimate of the South Side renovation that came in slightly under budget: Promised to cost $11.1 million, the current estimate have it clocked in at $11,095,448, which architects told board members was made possible by shrinking square footage in the plan but without sacrificing programming.

But a vote on McKinley Field was tabled after architects presented designs for the project that didn't include lights. Along with a latex-surface track, synthetic-turf football field and expanded bleacher capacity, lights were among the $6.2 million of updates promised to and approved by voters in the 2016 referendum.

"For me, the lights need to be in there," Kloeppel said. "That was certainly something that we promised."

Architects set the lights aside in an alternate plan, estimating that adding them would increase the cost of a project that came in just under its $6.1 million budget by nearly $400,000.

"What you see here is a good collaborative effort between all the teams and the district," Greg Doolin, a representative for O'Shea Builders, told the board. "It's been a good team effort, and we're happy with where we are on budget."

Board members discussed the possible overage, with several saying lights were a non-negotiable part of the project.

"We discussed the athletic fields being separate from Central for years and years, and a lot of people came together, and a lot of people had to compromise," board member Kathy Shannon said. "I feel like some of the people who made the biggest compromises — people who wanted parking and athletics at Central — I feel like we need to get those people the minimum of what we promised them. It wouldn't be fair if we took something away that was so vital to them."

Even if the budget does go over, Kloeppel added, adding lights was still feasible in the overall budget.

"I'm not sitting up here saying 'Lights, lights, lights' without some indication that we could do that," he said.

The vote on McKinley Field work was tabled until the Sept. 24 board meeting.

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