The demolition of Bexley Hall is projected to take place in the summer of 2015 according to MIT, but the site will have a temporary use before a permanent structure is built there.
In order to legally demolish Bexley, the MIT administration will seek a permit from the City of Cambridge. “We are planning to apply for the demolition permit in December and, dependent on the application schedule, take the building down in the summer of 2015,” wrote Chancellor Cynthia A. Barnhart PhD ’88 in an email to The Tech. “Filing in December allows the time needed to gather input on the interim use plan.”
In addition, Cambridge requires a plan for use of the site after the building is torn down. This interim use plan, outlining the temporary purpose of the site, will be submitted with the permit application. The plan for the site will extend for three to five years, depending on the time frame for developing a long-term plan.
A committee of students, faculty, and staff are working together with a landscape architecture firm to develop the interim use plan for the site. Of the students on the committee, three are former Bexley residents and one is a former Bexley graduate resident tutor.
In an interview with The Tech, Laila Shehata ’16, an undergraduate on the committee and also the chairman of the Undergraduate Association (UA) Committee on MIT 2030, said, “The committee’s goal is to have the interim plan done by the end of October, mid-November at the latest.” This would allow the permit application to be submitted on schedule in December.
Shehata and Rene L. Miller ’15, another undergraduate on the committee, described their vision for the interim use of the space. “The plan is for it to be more of an open space,” said Miller. According to Miller, some ideas that the committee has discussed include movable, modular furniture, an open space for student art installations, a small stage for movies and music, and space for food trucks.
“It will be like a general park,” added Shehata. There is also discussion about keeping the Bexley archway at the front of the space.
“The committee is the main driving force behind what it’s going to look like,” said Shehata. To create a visualization of their ideas, an architecture firm will make sketches based on the committee’s input.
In an email to The Tech, UA president Shruti Sharma ’15 said, “The Undergraduate Association is heavily working with the administration on campus planning, to ensure student perspective is incorporated in major decisions.” She said, “Laila’s 2030 committee has assiduously garnered feedback for the Bexley space and we look to keep getting more opinions.”
Bexley closed due to structural problems in June 2013, displacing 116 undergraduates. The Department of Facilities and the Division of Student Life put forth a recommendation to demolish Bexley in October 2013, which awaited the approval of both the Building Committee and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation until this past spring.
To accommodate this loss of housing, Bexley residents were dispersed among several other dorms. Chancellor Barnhart noted that “staff from Residential Life and Dining worked with individual house governments to identify additional spaces within certain houses to accept an increase in residents, and MIT reduced the freshman class size by sixty.”
Barnhart added, “New housing will be an element of the West Campus Planning Study which will include faculty and student representatives.” The committee for interim use will not be part of the long-term plan for the use of the site. Whether or not the Bexley site will be used to build another dorm is yet to be determined.