Instead of demolition, cottages may be moved and reused

EUGENE, Ore. - Things may be coming full circle for a cluster of cottages at the University of Oregon.

The buildings - believed to have once been home to soldiers during World War II - are in the running to once again house those who served our country.

The 15 structures on Columbia Street between 17th and 19th avenues need to go to make room for the university's new central kitchen. Twelve of the buildings made up the housing complex known as Columbia Terrace.

According to an article written by George Kramer in the Oregon Encylopedia, the cottages were moved to their current location after they provided shelter for soldiers at Camp White during World War II. The University of Oregon bought the land 40 years ago and turned the cottages into student housing.

Students vacated the cottages last summer in anticipation of the new development.

The $8.5 million new central kitchen will replace two smaller ones currently located in Bean and Carson halls. Those two kitchens provide over 10,000 meals a day. A wood shop will also occupy the site.

The original plan was to demolish the houses, but the university is now considering alternatives.

"You know we're very much into sustainability and recycling so if the houses can be moved in whole that would be terrific," said Michael Griffel, Director of Housing at UO. "There's been interest expressed by a number of parties for those properties."

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz is one of the people who Griffel says asked him about the structures. A spokesperson for the city said Ruiz would like to see the buildings repurposed as veterans housing.
Other private citizens have also expressed interested in renovating and restoring the structures for use as veterans housing, including members of the Eugene Historical Review Board.

"We are hoping very much that the properties can be reused," Griffel said, but they won't know for sure if the buildings can be salvaged and relocated until construction starts. "Like many intensive projects, until they actually get into it and have engineers try to move them, they aren't going to know for sure how they'll tolerate it."