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West House Move: Half a Million and Up

Advocates for the preservation of tiny West House have encountered another obstacle with the release of a relocation study that estimates it would cost more than $500,000 to move the structure out of the way of a proposed arts complex.

The estimates range from $517,909 to $731,419, depending on the destination of the move and whether the original floor slab were included. The study authors predicted the price tag of building a faithful replica to be less than half of the lowest relocation cost. The administration says it is willing to accommodate moving the house if private funds are raised.

Businessman Kenneth S. Tanner ’11 built the house in 1935 for use by his son and other family members during their time at the University. The structure housed the computer sciences department in the 1960s and later was home to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Currently it houses the Carolina Asia Center. If the building is relocated, work would have to be completed by 2006, when construction is scheduled to begin on the Arts Common.

“We were all shocked by the cost estimate,” said Jeffery Beam, founder of the Save West House Coalition and a science librarian on campus. “It will probably renew our argument that the building should stay where it is.”

University officials commissioned the study in January to examine the feasibility and cost of relocating the house from its current place to three alternative locations. Site one is 130 yards from the current location, at the edge of the Arts Common. Site two is on East Cameron Avenue, across from Coker Arboretum. Site three is behind Forest Theatre. The cost estimates include labor, reconstruction and insurance.

Chapel Hill architect John Hawkins and a structural engineer from Cary, David Fischetti, conducted the study. Hawkins has extensive experience with the town of Chapel Hill, and Fischetti is noted for moving the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

Campus officials said $22 million of the $28 million total cost of the music building has been raised. Steve Allred ’74, associate provost and chair of the Arts Common Planning Committee, said the new music building is essential.

“We have an unair-conditioned, cramped building that is inconsistent with our desire to promote the arts on this campus,” Allred said.

Beam said he supports the Arts Common but wants administrators to consider incorporating West House into the overall design.

“We don’t feel like it’s over with, and we’re hoping the debate intensifies as a result of the study,” Beam said.


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