In spite of President Michael Roth’s announcement earlier this month that plans to demolish the former campus dining facility McConaughy Hall (MoCon) would be halted for further reevaluation, it is still probable that the structure will be demolished over the summer.
“I think it’s most likely [that the building will be demolished over the summer], just to be perfectly candid,” Roth said in an interview on Wednesday.
Roth has not set a deadline for making a decision about the future of the building but anticipates coming to a conclusion within the next few weeks.
“I don’t want this to be indecision,” he said. “I have to have something viable.”
On March 4, Roth wrote on his blog that he would postpone signing the final contracts for the demolition project in order to explore further adaptive reuses for the building with architects and other specialists. The announcement came following a Board of Trustees meeting in late February and an outpouring of reactions from alumni and current students opposed to the demolition.
“I haven’t found an alternative use for MoCon,” Roth wrote on his blog. “But given all the strong feeling, which I share, about trying to find alternative uses, I’ve delayed signing contracts for its demolition.”
Roth made the decision after learning from Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe that the University could postpone deciding on final contracts, which the University had said were due March 8. He said he has now contacted the architect he worked with during his tenure as president of California College of the Arts. The two have worked on other adaptive reuse projects in the past.
“Although I thought I had been careful before, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake,” Roth said. “Once you take the building down it’s too late to make versible should be done with great care, especially when it’s been a part of the campus for about 50 years.”
After learning about the decision to postpone signing the final contracts Jim McConaughy ’68 MA ’74 (the grandson of MoCon’s namesake, President James McConaughy) contacted Roth asking what implications the decision had on the future of the building.
“My sense is that President Roth is making a good faith effort to try to respect the wishes of a lot of people who do not want to see the building torn down,” McConaughy wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “The fact that he went on a walk-through of the building recently with an architect and CFO John Meerts means that he was willing to explore new ideas about its viability.”
Although Roth is looking into options for the building, he expressed his hesitance to adopt one due to the expenses adaptive reuse could incur.
“I had looked at a lot of options before—none of them played out well,” he said.
According to an e-mail Topshe wrote to The Argus in early February, the University has explored dozens of potential new uses for the building over the past decade and conducted several cost analyses evaluations for adaptive reuses of the building. These included a dining or assembly space with minimal renovations for $2.5 million, a dance, theater, or art studio space for $4.4 million, an office space for $5.4 million, and student housing with approximately 50 beds for $7.4 million.
“The location of MoCon lends itself best to student housing which is consistent with our master plan,” Topshe wrote. “However, the cost per bed to adapt MoCon to student housing is approximately 50 percent greater than the cost to build new.”
Roth said he is also reluctant to let MoCon sit unused for too long due to the health risks it poses.
“It is dangerous to go in there; there’s asbestos,” Roth said. “I’m very concerned when I hear about people thinking it’s fun to go into the building.”
The University is currently conducting a hazardous materials abatement in MoCon.