Fielding complaints from community members regarding the University’s plans to demolish the Frieze Building, administrators said they would try to save portions of the building at a meeting held last night.
“The University is committed to preserving the historic nature of the facility,” said E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs.
Nearly 100 Ann Arbor community members and several University administrators gathered to discuss the future of the Frieze Building.
The Ann Arbor High School occupied the Frieze Building from 1856 to 1956, when the University purchased the building.
Mary Hathaway, a 1952 graduate of Ann Arbor High School, was among those protesting the plans. While Hathaway talked about the many great times she had at her high school, she said she does not want to preserve the building for her memories alone. Hathaway said one of the main reasons she believes the historic portions of the building should be saved is because of their architecture.
“Ann Arborites really feel sad when they see their architecture disappearing. We’ve lost a lot already, and this is not something we want to lose,” Hathaway said.
Anne Breiholz, a 1953 graduate of Ann Arbor High School, also said she hopes parts of the building can be preserved.
“We had the most fabulous high school, we loved the building, and we really hope they can keep the western facade,” Breiholz said.
In October, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced plans to demolish the Frieze Building and build a new residence hall — tentatively called North Quad — as well as classroom and other educational facilities in its place. The new residence hall would be the first build in 37 years.
While many students have reacted with support for the plan, Coleman’s proposal has faced opposition for a variety reasons. Opponents of the project say they are concerned the University will be demolishing a historic site and that the new structure may create traffic and parking problems for the State Street area.
Additionally, many said they are concerned that a new building will not blend well with the surrounding structures. In order to address some of these concerns, both community members and administrators have proposed that the most historically significant portions of the building could be saved and integrated into the new portions of the building.
University administrators also said they would instruct the architect chosen for the project to preserve portions of the building, if possible.
Frieze Building preservation supporters were not the only people who attended last night’s meeting. Supporters of Coleman’s proposal were also in attendance and spoke on behalf of the new residence hall and learning facilities.
“I support the proposal,” said LSA junior Pamela Baker, a member of the organization Public Interest Research Group In Michigan. “I think increased housing for students is long overdue. I also like the idea of putting academic and residential space in one building. I think this is a step in the right direction, a chance for the University to show that undergraduate life is important to them.
Others who spoke on behalf of Coleman’s proposal included State Street merchants, who said they believe a residence hall will bring more students to the area and increase business.
Overall, both University administrators and community members said they were pleased with how the meeting went and really hoped the University and community could work together on the project.
“I thought the meeting went very well and that it was a very good representation of the feelings people have about the Frieze Building,” said Darlene Ray-Johnson, assistant to the Dean for the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. “I’m glad the University gave the public a voice on this issue.”
The University is expected to recommend an architect to the University Board of Regents at the next regents’ meeting, to be held on Jan. 26. The regents will then decide whether or not to approve the University’s choice, and further plans for the site will continue.