Although President Michael Roth halted plans in early March for McConaughy Hall’s (MoCon) slated demolition to reevaluate potential reuses for the building, a blog post he wrote earlier this week revealed that plans to tear down the former campus dining hall would continue as planned.
“‘Some buildings you can turn into other things and other buildings you can’t,’ an architect said to me,” Roth said.
According to Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe, the building’s demolition, which will cost an estimate $750,000, will begin after Commencement in May and continue through the summer.
“[We will be] implementing every appropriate safety and environmental precaution along the way,” Topshe wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “After that, plans for the site will be to reconstitute it as a sustainable landscape.”
Roth decided to stall plans for the demolition following a February Board of Trustees meeting and an outpouring of negative reactions from alumni and current students, in order to explore further adaptive reuse options for the building with architects who specialize in similar projects.
“The options we came up with that seemed like they might work entailed rebuilding the whole thing,” he said. “We wouldn’t rebuild it to preserve it. That would be a contradiction.”
The demolition is less expensive than the projected costs of converting the building into an open-air pavilion or art studios, which ranged into the millions, according to Director of Media Relations David Pesci. Roth said he was deterred from those ideas because they changed the building’s design significantly—the open-air pavilion required complete structural changes and art studios would have eliminated the open space in the center of MoCon.
“You would be destroying the building while pretending to save it,” Roth said. “Those things, plus the expense, made me realize that the building was something that was precious while it was here and now we have to go on.”
In response to the many alumni and students who have expressed their frustration with the final decision, as well as others who support the outcome, but would like to commemorate the building, University Relations will be holding an event during Reunion and Commencement to celebrate MoCon’s history and significance on campus.
“We’re working with students and alumni to plan something festive and fun during the Saturday Festival on Foss Hill,” wrote Associate Vice President for External Relations Gemma Ebstein in an e-mail to The Argus. “All I can say right now is that the celebration will likely involve music and memorabilia.”
Additionally, the Alumni and Parent Relations Office has worked with University Communications to develop a website that will feature historical highlights and images, and allow members of the Wesleyan community to contribute memories about the building.
“Knowing that many alumni and students have fond feelings for MoCon, we think it’s important to give everyone a chance to share memories and mark this occasion,” Ebstein wrote.
The commemorative website will be launched within the week.