Loose bricks on Random Hall’s exterior were discovered in a recent inspection of the dormitory, raising safety concerns.
“When the work crew came to assess the situation, it was determined that entire façade on the front of 282–290 Mass. Ave. is barely attached and likely to come crashing down at any point,” Random’s housemaster Nina Davis-Millis wrote to students in an email on March 6.
Repairs to Random won’t be the only building work on the block if Forest City Enterprises has its way. The real estate company hopes to replace existing buildings adjacent to Random at 300 Massachusetts Ave. with a new six-story Millennium Pharmaceuticals building that would overshadow Random’s roofdeck. Forest City plans to begin construction this fall, according to the Boston Globe.
When asked whether that construction would force Randomites to live elsewhere, Henry J. Humphreys, dean for student life, said that he didn’t have “all the data to determine what the scope of the project would be.”
Forest City’s rezoning proposal, which passed the Cambridge City Council in February, allows for a building 95 feet tall and 250,000 square feet in floor area.
Of more immediate concern for Randomites are the repairs slated for spring break, during which workers will erect scaffolding in front of Random in order to secure any loose bricks or limestone, according to Humphreys. “It is our anticipation that the scaffolding will stay up after spring break,” he said.
“Those of you with windows facing Mass Ave. will certainly want to be sure you have blinds on your windows because there will be workmen climbing around out there starting at 9:00 for a while,” Davis-Millis wrote in her email.
These repairs are part of MIT’s larger capital renewal efforts. When it comes to dormitories, the current focus is East Campus, said Dennis J. Collins, director of residential life for renovation and repair. But at the time of the inspection of Random earlier this month, the risk was deemed to be immediate enough that temporary metal strips had to be fixed to the façade on the same day in order to strap bricks in.
Over spring break, the crew will also conduct a more in-depth investigation into the state of the building to follow up the initial inspection.
Regardless of the results of the assessment, Random will be closed this summer, in case work needs to continue. Eventually, the mortar between the bricks will be removed and replaced, as is being done at the storage facility at the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Vassar St. Humphreys said that the process would “probably not” take longer than one summer in the case of Random Hall.
When pressed, students living in Random expressed concerns that their sleep or their roofdeck view would be affected. But many Randomites seem largely apathetic to the upcoming repair work.
“It’s an issue on the back burner for most people, I think,” said Sherry Wu ’14.