New House to undergo wholesale renovation; re-opening slated for fall 2019 | MIT News

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson have informed members of the MIT community that New House will undergo extensive renovations and repairs from June 2017 to August 2019. Barnhart and Nelson said the decision to renovate the 41-year-old building was based on the outcomes of a feasibility study conducted by the Office of Campus Planning and the MIT Capital Projects group. The study examined the costs, capacity gains, and construction timelines associated with two scenarios: renovating or re-building.

“We have informed your Head of House Wesley Harris and the entire House Team, as well as New House President Sarah Wharton and New House Exec. “Like us, they are pleased with this decision and very excited to work with all of you to reimagine a new New House,” wrote Barnhart and Nelson in a letter to the New House community. They also delivered the news in person — meeting with residents and members of the house team in New House’s Arcade for a couple of hours on Sunday evening.

Barnhart and Nelson shared an overview of the feasibility study, noting the following key findings:

  • Building a new residence hall on the New House site would achieve a modest gain in beds but would cost significantly more than renovating the existing dormitory.
  • Maintaining New House’s current 288 bed count after required accessibility improvements are made is a primary goal for the renovation project.
  • The comprehensive 2015 renovations to Houses 1 and 2, including upgrades to those buildings’ separate heating and cooling systems, mean that these houses can remain open to students during the 2017-18 academic year.
  • Extensive repairs to the heating and cooling systems in Houses 3-6 are necessary. In an effort to mitigate disruption for students, re-construction in House 3 will not take place while students are living in Houses 1 and 2.

Barnhart and Nelson told students that they were “really thrilled” by the decision about Houses 1 and 2. “We understand that this is an uncertain time for New House residents. “It’s our hope that these two pieces of good news will bring a bit more certainty to the ongoing relocation process,” they wrote.

“This plan is an optimum solution that would not be achievable without the support of students and heads of house throughout the residential life community. The future of New House as a vibrant community has been well-planned. The road forward will require the continued cooperation of all residents of New House as well as other residential communities. Finally, I am pleased to acknowledge the very successful efforts of MIT administrators and Division of Student Life staff. I appreciate their partnership and willingness to work closely with New House during the relocation,” said New House Head of House Wesley Harris, the Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Barnhart and Nelson acknowledged this “critical milestone” in the New House project and said they must continue to work closely with New House students and other MIT residential communities to find “fair and balanced relocation solutions” that utilize existing housing stock capacity. The solutions must also allow New House students to continue to live together as desired. Barnhart and Nelson presented residents with a preliminary housing relocation plan based on these guiding principles during Sunday’s meeting.

Barnhart and Nelson wrote, “Our conversations with students and house teams show there is broad support across the residential system for welcoming and hosting your communities during the renovation period. As a result, we hope that those of you who want to live together as you relocate from New House will be able to do so. We’re grateful for the entire community’s good will, but not surprised by it. This is, after all, MIT.”

Barnhart and Nelson’s letter to New House students identifies the following next steps in the renovation and relocation process:

  • using the results of a recent housing preference survey of New House students, work with each residence hall to finalize a set of relocation housing options for New House students to consider;
  • identify quality-of-life enhancing improvements that can be made over the summer so that residential communities can more easily accommodate New House students in the upcoming academic year;
  • kick off the W70 New House Renovation Planning Group and engage the entire New House community throughout the design phase of the renovation project;
  • work with New House students on a “sustainability plan” for each New House community over the two-year renovation and relocation period (to assist with this effort, the Division of Student Life will offer grants to help communities stay connected to each other); and
  • provide the student community with an update on the progress being made on these efforts before finals, with a goal of finalizing a New House relocation plan no later than February 2017.