Bexley Hall closing due to structural problems

Renovations to take up to three years, residents must move out at end of the semester

Bexley Hall, home to 116 undergraduates, will be closed for renovations for up to three years beginning this summer, Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo announced at a meeting with residents on Tuesday.

“Safety is so crucial here. If there are worrisome signs of additional deterioration, we need to act on that,” Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 said.

The decision to close Bexley was prompted by structural problems with the building uncovered during inspections conducted last month by Facilities and outside consultants, according to Colombo. The inspections and repairs to Bexley are part of a larger capital renewal program to chew down a backlog of deferred maintenance, which is in part focused on building façades and envelopes.

Responding to criticism of the timing of the announcement, Grimson told The Tech that the administration had only received the engineering report on April 29. “We did get it out as quickly as we can.”

Despite the increased load, Grimson said that there would be space in the other dorms for any Bexley student who wants to continue to live on campus. “We knew this was going to be a temporary measure,” said Colombo, “and how much of a temporary measure [it is] needs to be a conversation within the faculty committee on enrollment and so on.”

Residential Life has asked housemasters in each dorm to work with room assignment chairs to find clusters of rooms, preferably singles and doubles, for Bexley residents. Most dorms can accommodate groups of eight to ten residents, but Maseeh could be able to accommodate the group of 40 Bexley residents who said they wanted to live together.

According to Colombo, housemasters were told to have these lists of available rooms ready by 4 p.m. today. He added that they’re still trying to “find a mechanism of how to distribute these rooms in a fair manner to all Bexley students.”

Some doubles in Maseeh Hall are being turned into quads, but MIT has “planned to do that all along,” Colombo said, explaining that those rooms were designed for three or four beds. “There’s no difference in our capacity for Maseeh.” (Triples are generally avoided, Grimson said, because of the possibility of unwanted “two-on-one” situations.)

However, in a late-night meeting with the Maseeh legislature yesterday, Maseeh RLAD Rebecca Kjaerbye told residents that Maseeh would be increasing its capacity by another 15 students, making its total capacity 505, whether or not Bexley students move in. Maseeh residents on each floor voted last night on whether or not residents wanted to give the entire ground floor to Bexley residents, which would mean that many fewer freshmen for Maseeh. According to Kjaerbye, “a lot of buildings … will be expanded,” as other dorms accommodate groups of Bexley residents.

The extent of the repairs to Bexley will be determined in a “programming, planning, and designing” phase, which will take “no less than a year,” said Dick Amster, Director of Facilities, Campus Planning, Engineering, and Construction.

Until that phase is over, the fate of the murals in Bexley, part of a culture some feel is now at stake, is unknown.

After the planning, construction will take “probably a year and a half,” Amster said.

At the very least, the renovated building will have to include a new elevator for accessibility to meet today’s ADA guidelines, Amster said.

The building suffers from “water damage inside the building’s exterior walls,” according to an MIT announcement. As of press time, Amster has not responded to a request for the engineering report, though he did speak with The Tech.

Before spring break, workers also discovered loose bricks on Random Hall’s façade during inspections planned as part of the capital renewal efforts. Though work was done over spring break, Random will be closed during the summer for further interior and exterior work.

The buildings next door to Random on the 300 Mass. Ave. block are being demolished to make way for a new pharmaceutical building, a project of Forest City developers. The demolitions are scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

Despite the impending demolition next door and the need for exterior repairs, Senior Associate Dean for Residential Life and Dining Henry Humphreys confirmed that Random Hall will be open next Fall.

“You will be able to move back in after the summer. You have my word on that,” Humphreys told Random residents at a meeting Wednesday night.

Humphreys said that MIT has started thinking about contingency plans in case Random students are not able to immediately move in at the start of the Fall, but that there are no such plans yet.

MIT will cover summer storage costs for both Bexley and Random students, who are being asked to move all of their belongings. MIT will also cover moving costs for Bexley residents who choose to join an independent living group or live off campus.

Grimson said he was happy to see the Division of Student Life, housemasters, and student leadership “all coming together to fix this” as a community. “That’s what we do when we have a crisis.”

Michelle Szucs contributed reporting.

1 Comment
Anonymous about 11 years ago

3 years, half of which is planning? That means a complete turnover of undergrad population.

Couldn't they do the urgent exterior repairs this summer, and then let everyone move back in next year while they do the planning and design for the interior work?