Since Bexley Hall was closed at the end of the spring 2013 semester, MIT has been working on plans to demolish the building and replace the student housing it once provided.
Last week, the Cambridge Historical Commission officially approved MIT’s request to demolish Bexley Hall, a development first reported by the Cambridge Day. The request was made following the approvals of both the Building Committee and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation to proceed with Bexley’s demolition upon the recommendation of the Department of Facilities.
The decision to tear down the dormitory came after MIT was “advised that the cost to renovate/repair Bexley would be approximately the same magnitude as building a replacement facility of the same size,” according to the proposal submitted to the commission.
The demolition is expected to take place as soon as possible after this year’s Commencement, following the approval of a permit from the city of Cambridge. Immediately after the demolition, construction of a new, likely temporary park space will begin on the site of the dorm, according to MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01, the chairman of the Building Committee.
In an interview with The Tech, Ruiz added that “the demolition and the park space construction will most likely be coordinated by the same contractor, in order to speed up the proceedings.”
The idea and design for the park space was developed by a committee of MIT students working with a landscape architect as well as several administrators from the Department of Facilities and the Department of Student Life (DSL).
Thayer Donham, a Senior Campus Planner in Facilities who is working closely with the committee, said in an interview with The Tech that the current conceptual design for the park space includes walkways, seating, lighting, accommodations for tour buses, and bike racks.
Students and faculty will be able to use the open space to showcase their work. Art exhibits and student activities held there will be coordinated through the office of the Chancellor.
Should the demolition progress smoothly, the construction of the park space is estimated to be completed by November. Landscapers will then begin planting trees the following spring.
After Bexley closed in 2013, dorms identified additional spaces in order to house a larger number of students and MIT reduced the freshman class size by 60. Since the closing, the Delta Upsilon and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternities were suspended, which Ruiz said added to the 100-bed shortage left by Bexley.
The West Campus Planning Study, part of the MIT 2030 building plan also responsible for the ongoing East Campus/Kendall Gateway project, will address these housing issues and the long-term fate of the Bexley lot on a larger scale. Ruiz said that the project will holistically evaluate the buildings and facilities in west campus, including dormitories, Kresge Auditorium, the MIT Chapel, and the athletic facilities.
Graduate housing will also be considered in planning; the initiative will oversee renovations to Sidney-Pacific that will displace around 370 graduate students over the next year and a half.
The funding plan for the West Campus Planning Study, as well as the other projects that are currently under the MIT 2030 framework, will be split into two parts: debt-funding will provide the capital for half of the projects, while the other half will be supported by a fundraising campaign led by Eric Grimson PhD ’80.
It has yet to be determined when a new dormitory will be built. As for the housing problem, “the MIT administration and the [Bexley space] student committee is working towards a longer-term investment, which will hopefully be definitive by the end of term,” said Ruiz.