Proposed locations of new building come with controversy

Collier House is a City of Eugene historic landmark. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

The Collier House has occupied the same corner of University Street and 13th Avenue since 1886. As campus has expanded around the house throughout the years, the building remains one of the few relics of early University of Oregon. But its prominence at the center of campus is now in jeopardy.

On Oct. 19, the Campus Planning Committee voted unanimously to recommend the Collier House site as a location for a new general classroom and faculty office building. McArthur Court and the parking lot across the street from Prince Lucien Campbell Hall were the other two candidates. UO President Michael Schill now must decide whether the Collier House site is indeed the best space for the new building.

The Collier House is one of the last remnants of old campus, outliving the old EMU and Hayward field, among other buildings. The house was the official residence of university presidents until 1941, then served as a faculty lounge until 2003. Now, the music department uses the house for classes, recitals and faculty offices. But the decline of activity in the space, coupled with the site’s prime position in the center of campus, makes the decision to relocate the Collier House predictable.

Because the Collier House is a registered landmark with the City of Eugene, the construction of a new building on the property poses challenges. According to the National Parks Service website, any construction on a historic landmark must adhere to the “Standards of Rehabilitation” imposed by the National Parks Service, which places restrictions on any kind of construction on historic properties. This means the Collier House, minus the 1960s-era addition to the building, will have to be relocated somewhere else on campus.

Eleni Tsivitzi, associate planner with Campus Planning, said that moving the house will involve detaching it from its foundation, placing it on a system of high-strength dollies, then rolling the house to its new location — which has yet to be decided. Tsivitzi said that moving the Collier House will be easy for the company in charge of the task.

“They were talking about a five-story, unreinforced brick building that they moved in Texas not long ago,” she said. “So they sort of giggled at this one.”

There is no set date or timeline for the Collier House relocation. But Tsivitzi said Campus Planning identified three possible on-campus location for the house: the grass lawn near 16th Avenue and Alder Street, the lawn between the Knight Library and the Frohnmayer Music, Building and the lawn next to Gerlinger Hall.

Tsivitzi said Campus Planning is wary the impact of a new, larger building would have occupying the Collier House site.

“That is something that we don’t take lightly,” she said, “because the open space framework and the way that the campus works as an arboretum is really something that is intrinsic to the character of UO — something that really attracts us all being here.”

Tsivitzi said that the designs for the new building do not exist yet either; however, her department hired Bora Architects and Place Landscape Architects to oversee the project and ultimately design the new building when the time comes. The designers will collaborate with the firms working on the 13th Avenue conceptual design.

“We can start feeding in the observations from the 13th Avenue study into the conceptual designs of the classroom and faculty office building,” Tsivitzi said, “so that we can ensure that with the future of 13th [Avenue] being a much more graceful, multimodal path, we can incorporate that into the massing and the study of the site around this building.”

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