Tulane grants initial approval for controversial demolition of NCI house

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Tulane grants initial approval for controversial demolition of NCI house

The Newcomb College Institute at 43 Newcomb Place will be replaced with a $50 million building to house a new dining hall and a new space for the NCI.

The Newcomb College Institute at 43 Newcomb Place will be replaced with a $50 million building to house a new dining hall and a new space for the NCI.

The Newcomb College Institute at 43 Newcomb Place will be replaced with a $50 million building to house a new dining hall and a new space for the NCI.

The Newcomb College Institute at 43 Newcomb Place will be replaced with a $50 million building to house a new dining hall and a new space for the NCI.

Emily Carmichael, Print News Editor

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On May 4, New Orleans city officials gave Tulane University initial approval to demolish the former home of the Newcomb College Institute at 43 Newcomb Place, next to Joseph Merrick Jones Hall.

Tulane plans to construct a $50 million building on the site that will include a new home for NCI and a new dining hall. This comes a year after Tulane withdrew its previous request to demolish the structure when frustrated Newcomb College alumni sent more than 150 emails, calls and letters to Councilperson Susan Guidry to protest the demolition.

These alumni viewed the demolition of the former NCI house as a continuation of Tulane’s exploitation of their alma mater, and felt that the university had not adequately communicated with them about the fate of one of their college’s significant buildings.

After Hurricane Katrina, Tulane merged with Newcomb College as part of the university’s Renewal Plan to keep itself afloat amidst the storm’s devastation. Some Newcomb College alumnae feel Tulane has unfairly taken advantage of Newcomb College, using the merger as more of a means to further its own institutional self-interest rather than enter into a more equal partnership.

This sentiment prompted the creation of The Future of Newcomb College Inc., an organization that actively fought the merger between Newcomb and Tulane and spearheaded the protest to Guidry. The Future of Newcomb College Inc.’s website has since gone inactive.

“I understood that the building no longer suited the needs of the university, but requested that Tulane further explore the possibility of moving the house to another location,”  Guidry said. “Tulane has demonstrated to my satisfaction that no alternatives are feasible and has reapplied for a demolition permit. Since the reapplication, the vast majority of comment[s] received by my office [have] been supportive of the application. While I am saddened that no alternative plan for this beautiful home presented a workable solution, I appreciate Tulane taking the time to investigate these alternatives.”

Tulane has not modified its plans for 43 Newcomb Place since the last time it sought approval for the demolition.

“The decision to demolish the building was based on the fact that it would cost several million dollars to move the structure, the move would damage at least seven historic oak trees and would be a significant disruption in university and NCI operations,” Executive Director of Public Relations Michael Strecker said.

Tulane maintains that it has a good relationship with Newcomb alumni.

“Tulane has been forthright in its communications with alumni about the demolition of the structure at 43 Newcomb Place [and] has worked tirelessly to communicate the benefits of The Commons (the working name of the new building) for the university community, including the NCI,” Strecker said.

Despite any tensions, Newcomb alumnae continue to actively contribute to campus life.

“Personally, I have made many connections throughout my involvement, several of which have impacted my future plans,” former Newcomb Senate President Hannah Gilbert said about her relationship with Newcomb alumni through NCI.

Strecker said that the new building will have space for the NCI and more to benefit a greater number of students.

“A small stucco building with no unique architectural or historical characteristics will be replaced by a state of the art facility that will enhance the lives of thousands of Tulane students,” Strecker said. “The new space will have an entire floor dedicated to the NCI, bringing together the whole center now dispersed between three different buildings, and it is being designed to their specifications. Everyone is very excited about the possibilities a new space will hold for both students and alumni.”