Wesbrook Hall demolition slated for this summer

Student organizations and University departments that have called Wesbrook home will have to relocate by July.

Kyle Potter

Kimberly Wooster is scrambling.

She found out two weeks ago that the Student VeteranâÄôs Association needs to find a new home by July.

The University of Minnesota is planning to demolish Wesbrook Hall âÄî the building that SVA and other University organizations and departments call home âÄî beginning in August. Renovations to Northrop Auditorium and impending light-rail construction led the University to plan to get rid of the building.

âÄúItâÄôll be down before school starts again,âÄù University senior architect Jim Litsheim said.

The Veterinary Anatomy Building on the St. Paul campus is also scheduled to be demolished before fall semester begins. The building has been vacant since 1996, when it was closed due to structural concerns.

Destruction of both buildings is subject to approval by the Board of Regents in May, but that should be just a formality, Litsheim said.

The Wesbrook demolition is expected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000, and the removal of the St. Paul building will cost up to $300,000, Litsheim said. Disposal of hazardous materials accounts for a large part of each price tag.

Litsheim said 75 percent of materials from both buildings will be salvaged.

Just 12 years after Wesbrook was built in 1898, the idea of demolishing it came up in 1910, when the campus was redesigned by Cass Gilbert. Wesbrook didnâÄôt fit into the new master plan for campus architecture.

Water runoff from Northrop Auditorium, built in 1928, has eroded WesbrookâÄôs foundation and led to a significant mold problem.

But it was the looming construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line and NorthropâÄôs renovation that pushed an idea that had nagged University architects for years.

âÄúBecause of NorthropâÄôs stature âĦ it needs some breathing space around the building,âÄù Litsheim said. âÄú[Wesbrook] is just tucked in too close.âÄù

The land will be transformed into a green space much like Lilly Plaza on NorthropâÄôs east side. The plaza will serve as a waiting space for the light-rail line, which will bring increased foot and bus traffic to Pleasant Street.

WesbrookâÄôs potential demolition had been discussed since the SVA first occupied the building in 2007. But Wooster, the groupâÄôs president, said she didnâÄôt expect the news to come anytime soon. ItâÄôs given her little time to prepare for the move.

âÄúI was a little flabbergasted that I wasnâÄôt given very much notice,âÄù she said.

Had she known earlier, Wooster said she would have asked the Student Services Fees Committee for extra money to aid the process of finding a new home. One possibility is a room in Appleby Hall, but its 800 square feet are roughly half of the groupâÄôs office in Wesbrook.

The need to vacate Wesbrook has been on Scott EltonâÄòs mind since the renovation of Northrop began moving forward last spring.

Elton, assistant to the College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean for Planning Gary Oehlert, is helping CLA departments and programs coordinate the move to a new space.

Both the Department of Writing Studies and Access to Success âÄî a one-year program for CLA freshmen âÄî will leave Wesbrook by July 1.

The Department of Writing Studies will likely move into the Nolte Center, and Access to Success will move down the road to Appleby. Elton said he expects both transitions to be smooth and permanent.

âÄúIâÄôm an optimist, so weâÄôll make it work,âÄù he said.