I don't believe they are destroying anything that is historically significant. That west wing was a crappy add on to the building and they're bringing it up to date if I am not mistaken.
Now here's where we get down to the irreducible questions of personal esthetics and tastes.
From my point of view that 1939 west wing
is as significant and as enjoyable as the original Memorial Union. (I'm less crazy about the mid-50s east wing with the dining area.) The Union Theater has some of the best acoustics you can find, fine sightlines, is liked by not only audiences but performers, and exemplifies the curves of prewar "modern" architectural style. I think it is well worth the money being spent to restore it, and I hope the result is a cleanup and fixup of the original, not destructive. Maybe I don't know what's going on within, though I believe the craft shop is no more.
What are my thoughts on Langdon Street? Good lord, I thought I'd put everybody to sleep repeating them. Maybe I have. (I always want to apologize after I write these long things, but people can skip what they don't want to read.)
I think new buildings should conform with the heights of older buildings around them. That's the overall notion. Apparently we need more specifics:
I think the lake views from existing buildings between Langdon and the lake should be protected, so I would like to see stepped development up that hillside. This means shorter buildings near the lakeshore and taller ones behind. Buildings could have spaces between (lot line setbacks) so those behind could have a lake vista, or we could write off lake views from the first, say, three floors and protect views above that point.
Similarly, shadow studies can be done to determine whether a new building will place one of its neighbors in shade most of the year. Setbacks from the lot line and a stepped building design can allow neighbors to receive natural light, which adds property value for esthetic and energy reasons.
Both view and shadow considerations are part of the planning process now so I am not requesting anything unusual.
I think a very specific survey is needed with 3-D modeling of what is now present. Then we could define an appropriate height almost lot-by-lot, or at least block by block to account for the way the hill rises toward the 10 block. The technology exists and we ought to use it.
That's why I can't just state a flat "four stories and that's all" rule.
Detailed modeling and a stepped plan protects the property value of those with properties off the shore, where lake views can be totally blocked by oversize development at the waterline. In other words, I want to spread the property values around not concentrate them right at the edge. I think the overall total property value of the area would be enhanced in this way.
The south side of Langdon could be part of this view-protection plan, or just have a height limit. In that case the height limit needs to be way lower than that concrete thing on the corner of Gilman. Let's go with 5-6 stories because different code restrictions kick in above 6 stories for safety reasons. I wish it could be 4 stories but there's no way that wouldn't be shot down.
I don't think everything old has to be "saved." We could walk down Langdon and agree on a number of buildings that are worn out and never had much appeal to start with. We can replace those with something better.
I would like the neighborhood to weigh on on whether it's acceptable to agglomerate individual lots into bigger groups, tear down everything on them, and build one new building with a far larger footprint. If we want to restrict height for various reasons, what about restricting horizontal area? The new Henry-Iota Ct building is an example. Maybe when it's built we can tell whether the scale is way wrong or not.
I like a mix of styles. I've said before I think the Hillel facility on Langdon is one of the best new buildings in the city.