UT seeks to build new laboratory on historic properties

UT seeks to build new laboratory on historic properties

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One of the homes that could see a wrecking ball if UT's plans move forward. (Source: Google Maps) One of the homes that could see a wrecking ball if UT's plans move forward. (Source: Google Maps)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The University of Tennessee is hoping to purchase three homes in Fort Sanders to build a new academic building, but the move has preservationists concerned.

UT is seeking approval from the State Building Commission to purchase 1302, 1308 and 1312 White Avenue.

The three homes would be torn down to build a new four-to-five story building that would house portions of microbiology, biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, psychology, nutrition, a vivarium, shared laboratories and general-purpose classrooms.

University officials say the new building will address a shortfall of academic space at the school, providing an additional 200,000 square feet of space right across the street from the Hill and the Jessie Harris Building.

"We explored other building sites, but we concluded that proximity of Jessie Harris and the Hill is critical to the successful use and function of the facility," Chris Cimino, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said in a news release.

But local preservation group Knox Heritage is concerned about the proposal.

The group recently listed the Fort Sanders area and specifically the three homes in question were listed in its 2013 list of the Fragile 15, the most endangered historic structures in Knox County.

A volunteer with Knox Heritage told 6 News on Tuesday the group listed the Fort Sanders area number one on the list in part because of UT's proposal.

In addition to demolishing the structures, UT also seeks to close 13th Avenue between Cumberland Avenue and White Avenue for the project.

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