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W1 renovations paused amid economic uncertainty

Administrators working with students on next steps
As a precaution amid the current economic climate, construction on the W1 residence hall, formerly known as Ashdown House, will be put on hold.
As a precaution amid the current economic climate, construction on the W1 residence hall, formerly known as Ashdown House, will be put on hold.
Photo / Melody Craven

Construction on the W1 residence hall will be paused as a precautionary measure amid general economic uncertainty.

Administrators said MIT remains committed to completing the $90 million renovation of W1, formerly known as Ashdown House, but the current economic environment calls for thoughtful deliberation around the project's timing. The building, which for many years served as a graduate residence hall, had been scheduled to become an undergraduate residence beginning in 2010.

To explore the best course of action, senior administrators have conducted a series of meetings with those groups and individuals most affected: the members of the Task Force for Student Engagement; housemasters of both W1 and NW35; W1's founding students -- the Phoenix Group -- who have formed a community in the new Ashdown House (NW35); and members of the Ashdown House Executive Committee.

Administrators said they had particularly benefited from the advice and counsel of students who participated in the meetings. They added that they were committed to working with students on the future evolution of the Phoenix Group, and to continuing to support and nurture a new residential community despite the delay.

"In the context of the continuing financial turmoil around the world, MIT fortunately remains in a strong position to support its teaching and research," said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay. "Nevertheless, since the future of the economy remains unpredictable, this is a prudent moment to look for opportunities to preserve financial flexibility wherever possible."

Vice Chancellor & Dean for Graduate Education Steve Lerman noted that W1 still promises to become an outstanding feature of undergraduate residential life at MIT. However, he noted that in the search for places to limit new commitments of capital, W1 presents an unusual opportunity because of the stage of the project: interior demolition is complete, but the Institute has not yet signed the contracts to begin full construction.

MIT has no plans to reassess the timing for campus development projects that have already advanced into the construction phase, including the Media Lab extension, the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the MIT Sloan building and garage, and the Vassar Streetscape.

Teams of students, housemasters and professionals from the offices of the Dean for Student Life and MIT Facilities have collaborated over the past year to develop plans for W1.

"We expect these productive collaboration to continue as we look forward to the future start of the work," said Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 29, 2008 (download PDF).

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