WMU abandons plan to buy, demolish homes

The campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. (file photo courtesy WMU)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University has decided not to buy and demolish 10 houses on the north edge of its East Campus.

In January, WMU’s Board of Trustees approved the $370,000 purchase of two parcels of land on Oakland Drive and eight parcels on Bellevue Place, east of Oakland — all of which had been for sale since December. The university did not have an immediate long-term plan for developing those properties. Rather, the houses on them would have been demolished to make “green space,” according to a Wednesday release from WMU.

However, community members were concerned about the planned demolitions because the 10 houses are within the South Street-Vine Area Local Historic District — though the houses in question are not considered historic homes — and WMU had not received specific approval from the local historic district commission.

WMU said attorneys for the city’s historic preservation coordinator starting looking into whether the historic district commission would have jurisdiction if WMU owned the houses. WMU said it is exempt from local zoning and planning ordinances, but it abandoned its efforts to buy the properties anyway.

WMU Vice President for Business and Finance Jan Van Der Kley said the university never had any intent to “spark an uncomfortable and adversarial issue with the city.”

“Neither the city nor the University want to set what each side believes might be an inappropriate precedent, so the simple solution is for us to pass on this purchase opportunity,” Van Der Kley said in a statement.

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