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Last semester Michael Roth revealed that the Board of Trustees was considering demolition the likeliest option for McConaughy Hall. But now that it looks like that will actually happen! Soon!
According to Physical Plant VP Joyce Topshe, Mocon is scheduled for demolition this summer, and is already being stripped down for hazardous material this week in preparation for that larger project.
And we are overcome with nostalgia! As a member of the graduating class of 2010, I am part of the last generation of Wes students to remember what is was like to eat in that giant spaceship, and it is so bittersweet. And we’re not alone – the Save Mocon Facebook group, created last week, already has over 500 members.
So, what to do, if anything? On the one hand, pressing financial concerns and logistical issues limit any further usage of the building. On the other hand, there is overwhelming sentimentality calling for… something… to be done.
According to the Argus, Physical Plant’s assessment of Mocon is that it is “unsound for contemporary purposes” – after almost 50 years of use, it fails to meet standards of environmental friendliness, is expensive to heat and cool, and apparently costs up to $20,000 to maintain when in use; it also has more limited accessibility to people with disabilities and a much smaller seating capacity than Usdan.
Which are all valid points – clearly, there’s no viable way to use the space in anything near its former capacity. The administration has written it off because any renovation of the structure would be costly and inefficient, and wants to do away with it sooner rather than later because it “presents a safety risk” if left standing. Eventually, presumably after a lot more money comes through, new student dorms will probably be built on the location.
People have been throwing around ideas for alternative uses for the structure – what about only sometimes, for events? Yes, Mocon was a much better venue for Halloween dances, and Foss Cross, and Queer Prom, and the B’nei Mitzvah party, than Beckham Hall or the hockey rink. But however inadequate those venues may seem in comparison to those who remember, the novelty factor of keeping Mocon around as a sporadically used event space is likely outweighed by the administration’s concern for the bottom line.
Miles Bukiet ’11, creator of the Save Mocon group, suggests that the expense of temperature control is the biggest kink in the works regarding the possible salvation of Mocon – if we find a use for it that avoids the energy issue completely, perhaps saving it would be worthwhile. Maybe so, but it’s unlikely that we’ll figure out such a use without a large groundswell of support from current students and alumni.
In fact, the University has already considered other options for use of the space which might have been acceptable to current students and alumni attached to the building, even drawing up estimates for how much each one would cost.
According to Joyce Topshe, those estimates have been calculated at:
- Dining/Assembly with minimal renovations/code updates @ $2.5 Million
- Dance/Theater/Art Studio @ $4.4 Million
- Office Space for the ITS department @ $5.4 Million
- Student Housing for 50 +/- beds @ $7.4 Million (50% greater than new construction)
- Demolition Cost @ $898,485 total w/out structural fill
So demolition is by far the cheapest viable option that has been considered thus far. To further break it down, the demolition cost consists of the following:
- Abatement ($200,000)
– Hazardous material assessment completed, estimate pending
- Permitting, Design, Bidding ($45,000)
– < 50 years old is simplified, no community notification
– > 50 years old requires local agencies & community notification
- Demolition, Landscaping ($653,485)
The demolition process is projected to take 8 months, and abatement begins this week. The deconstruction will start over the summer, and likely be completed before the Fall 2010 begins. Nice and clean.
For the curious, the total demolition cost is the equivalent of 36 years worth of paying $25,000 per year (assuming that 25k is the upper limit of how much it would cost) to keep it at its current state of maintenance.
But let’s be real. Barring the possibility of some wealthy alumni throwing a lot of money at the Board of Trustees, with a sound plan for Mocon’s future usage and preservation, there’s no effective argument for keeping that place around indefinitely. I’m not saying that I support knocking it down; my memories of that place are as fond (or pungent) as those of anyone in my year. But any nostalgia for that place is purely that – a sentimental yearning for simpler times (freshman year for ’10ers, Camp Wes for alumni) with little corroboration in current reality.
HOWEVER, if demolition is definitely the eventual fate of Mocon, what’s the rush? Voices in the administration are trying to positively spin the likelihood that the Mocon lot will sit empty for many years to come after demolition. The Argus provides this fantastic excerpt:
Instead of building plans for a new structure, the demolition would allow for the restoration of sustainable and native hillside on campus.
“We will allow water that used to run into storm drains to percolate into the earth,” [Construction Services Project Manager Alan] Rubacha wrote. “We will provide a much needed open space for birds. This open space will provide spectacular views into and out of Foss Hill and it will provide a connection to Vine St.”
Yes, finally, Wesleyan students’ demands for an avian sanctuary from which to view Vine Street have been heard.
While future generations at Wes might enjoy an unobstructed view of the tennis courts from the Foss Hill dorms, it’s too bad that the initial expense of demolishing it is being incurred now. The resulting empty lot would sit vacant and unused until the administration sets enough money aside and figures out what to do with it anyway.
So, preservationists, the time to act grows smaller by the day. Officially, Mocon’s fate is sealed. But anything is possible until the bulldozers show up – sit-ins? Die-ins? Illegal occupation? Squatting? Hunger strikes (funny, because it’s Mocon)? Sleeping dragon? Party riots? An organized show of student support, backed up by alternate plans for use of the space and a massive influx of alumni money? Anything!
If all else fails and destruction is, in fact, imminent, we can take comfort that the administration at least decided to wait until after the Class of 2010 graduates for the demolition, so we can spend our last few months reminiscing about whatever there is to remember. Clearly, the timing was not coincidental. We (current seniors, 2006-07 visiting prefrosh, and alumni) have this ridiculous attachment to this building; it would only be fitting if Mocon were sent off in a manner befitting its monumental stature in our collective memory.
Again, so many opportunities: Senior Cocks: Mocon edition (with surplus donated to Haiti this time)? Some kind of gala event, or ridiculous closing ceremony? An all-day spring festival, with food and live music, spilling into the Hewitt Courtyard? I’m not being facetious in this part. At least 500 (and counting) of you feel strongly enough to join a facebook group – even if we fail to save Mocon’s physical presence on campus, the least we can do is put together an effort to send it off in the style it so thoroughly lacked.
The building hasn’t been maintained since Usdan opened in 2007, and has accrued the following damage since then:
- Significant interior water damage on the upper level from old leaks
- Skylight was leaking & is covered with a boat shrink wrap to prevent further damage
- Several large windows are broken from vandalism
- A/C system is inefficient and expensive to maintain. Currently non-functioning.
- Air handler coils are not in working condition
- Domestic Hot Water system leaks & the internal coils are fouled from lack of use
- HVAC Controls are primarily pneumatic and are inoperable
- Refrigeration systems leaking and dismantled
- Plumbing systems were leaking & drained
- Sanitary lines clogged with semi-solid material from inactivity
- Electrical motor controls obsolete & in questionable condition
- Fire alarm system not code compliant & includes just pull stations
- No fire sprinkler system as required by code
Any use of the space in the near future would have to take these deficits into account. Ideas?
Comment your thoughts away, and join this group if you have not already but want to be part of some organized strategy for figuring this out: Save Mocon.