CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Construction crews began a month-long demolition project on Monday on the Carbondale campus of Southern Illinois University.
More than 70 years after a residential neighborhood was built on what is now the west end of SIU's campus, the only nine remaining structures had become "expensive health and safety concerns," according to University Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Kevin Bame.
Many of the homes were found to be contaminated with asbestos and mold.
The buildings were in use as recently as Spring Semester of 2015.
"This was an old house," explained Carbondale resident Pat Cuendet, who said she once lived in one of the homes being demolished on Monday, "All of this street was full of lovely old homes. I think this was just a neighborhood from about '54 into the '70s, and then the university bought it and made it into their faculty house."
The homes have been used as satellite studios for WSIU Radio, and other various programs over the years.
"We've been able to relocate the offices that were here to better space." Bame explained, "We're avoiding a lot of maintenance by tearing them down, so even though the demo cost is somewhere around 300-thousand dollars… long term, the university will actually be saving money by not having to replace roofs, mechanicals, deal with asbestos, or mold issues as we go down the road."
Bame said Asbestos was disposed of or contained before demolition began, and there is no danger to area residents.
Demolition is expected to be complete by the end of July, and during that time Carbondale firefighters will be using those condemned houses for training sessions.
Assistant Chief Ted Lomax said he wanted to use the opportunity to train new members.
"One example: In these older homes, you'll have a finished attic," Lomax explained. "These here are called knee walls, and a lot of times you'll have the fire actually get up in there, and it travels inside the wall, and you don't really know it's back there. This gives these guys an opportunity to see different kinds of building construction, and get in there to see where the fire will travel."
University leaders say someday they intend to put new offices or housing in the area, but for now the lawn will be used as "green space" on the campus's west side.