Council hopes historic value nixes IU land swap

Bloomington leaders are hoping a proposed new historic designation persuades Indiana University to think twice about a land-swap plan that could include razing six houses to make way for a new fraternity building.

The IU Foundation has offered the houses on the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Eighth Street to Phi Gamma Delta in exchange for the fraternity's house on Third Street next to the IU Maurer School of Law, The Herald-Times reported.

The houses are included in 65 properties that the City Council has included in the University Courts Historic District. More than half of the properties are owned by IU, which isn't required to obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the city before demolishing structures in the district.

"They're not going to be subject to local regulation," assistant city attorney Patty Mulvihill said. "We cannot locally regulate their property."

Council members said they hoped the historic designation would prompt IU and the fraternity to reconsider their plans for the neighborhood, where buildings were designed by architects like John Lincoln Nichols and Alfred Grindle. Most of the houses were built between 1906 and 1934, and their occupants included a governor, mayor, county judge and various IU professors and coaches.

The neighborhood, which received state historic status in 1992 and national recognition in 2007, is also the last area in the city with brick streets.

"Maybe this designation will be a small wake-up call," Councilman Chris Sturbaum said. "I certainly hope that it will."

IU spokesman Mark Land declined to comment on the historic district proposal. He said there's no firm timeline for the land swap because the deal is contingent on the fraternity raising the money to build a new house.

Council of Neighborhood Associations representative Jon Lawrence said he favored establishing local protection for the neighborhood.

"We think this is an incredibly important neighborhood to save," Lawrence said. "It's kind of hard to imagine it not being protected."

A vote on the University Courts Historic District is scheduled for March 12.

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