Noisy Bruff Commons demolition to bring new residence halls, dining options


Elana Bush | Photography Editor

Bruff Commons is undergoing demolition, which has been a source of disturbance to many residents in Irby and Phelps.

Amy Nankin and Carrigan English, News Editors

Bruff Commons, Tulane’s retired dining hall and former home of mail services, has been closed off to the public and is slated to be demolished and replaced by new residence halls by Fall 2022. 

A series of large projects across campus began following the “Only the Audacious” campaign in 2017, starting with the construction of the Commons. With the Commons fully functioning, phase two has begun: the demolition of Bruff. The last phase of the project will be the completion of new residence halls. 

With Bruff located near residence halls, Tulane University Housing and Residence Life began communication with Irby Residence Hall and Phelps Residence Hall residents on Dec. 3 via email to alert them of the demolition plan slated to occur over winter break. 

The email communicated two upcoming changes: fencing was to be installed around the construction site and the staircase on Irby Hall facing the Bruff Quad was to be removed to make a pathway for utilities. To replace this staircase, the developers planned to construct a new staircase on the rear of the building facing Paterson Residence Hall. Much of this plan, however, was not accomplished, according to a Housing and Residence Life email on Jan. 2. 

“While we previously expected that the Irby stairs would be relocated, at present there are no plans to move the staircase,” the HRL email stated. “If that plan changes as the construction project progresses, we will inform residents in a timely manner. To get ready for the demolition, fencing has been installed around the site that will remain up during the demolition and the construction of the new residence halls, to be completed in the summer of 2022. You will see this fencing in place when you return from winter break.” 

Students returned to campus in early January to find heavy fencing blocking off the entire Bruff Quad and extending into the surrounding area, with Bruff Commons still intact and no change to Irby’s existing staircase. 

“The emails didn’t explain what was going to happen at all,” Irby resident Rachel Needell said. “First, they said they were going to move the steps, and then they didn’t, and then they also just didn’t tell us how we wouldn’t have access at all to the quad. They didn’t tell us how much the fencing would actually be covering.” 

Because the building’s demolition was not completed during the planned time frame, construction in the area continues to occur daily. Residents have not been informed of an expected demolition date, leaving many to wonder what is going on with the construction project. 

“It doesn’t really seem like anything big is going on yet, so I’m worried that it’s taking longer than it’s meant to,” Irby resident Liana Klin said. “I also hope it doesn’t get any more loud or disruptive during the earlier or later hours of the day, like, while we’re sleeping.”

Brian Johnson, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, was able to provide some clarifications about the delays, both of which were not in the original planning of the demolition.

“First, the City of New Orleans experienced a cyberattack that limited the city’s ability to provide basic services,” Johnson said. “The permitting process was impacted, resulting in a significant delay in the contractors beginning deconstruction. Second, it was determined after initial inspections that the process would be more complex than initially anticipated due to the age of the building and the construction techniques used to build Bruff.”

The primary issue with Bruff’s demolition is how to conduct deconstruction in a sustainable manner. According to Johnson, the crew plans to salvage as much of the building as possible in order to recycle and repurpose materials, a process which requires more time than a normal demolition project. 

Johnathan Burton, the Undergraduate Student Government director of Campus Services, explained that while construction is ongoing, it will not affect the daily lives of students drastically, and this demolition will not continue for much longer. Once Bruff is deconstructed, the crew will begin laying the groundwork for the future quad and residence halls. 

Plans for the quad include two new residence halls, new common spaces open to all students and a new “grab and go” dining option, all of which will open in Fall 2022. Additionally, there are plans to build a lecture hall to provide another space for evening exams, which normally take place in McAlister Auditorium. 

Burton explained that even though construction may be loud right now, the end product will be worth it. Burton described the planned common spaces and breakout rooms as a place students will be able to use however they choose. 

“It will not be [accessible all] 24 hours, but it will be open all throughout the day, so one can go in and use the breakout rooms, and there will be different classrooms.” Burton said. “It will just be a really good space because that’s not really something we have on campus already.”

This new section of campus is meant to make Tulane more accessible for students. Adding 720 more beds to campus, the two new residence halls will be available to sophomores and upperclassmen who do not wish to live off campus. 

Burton said these dormitories will also incorporate more single rooms than were previously available, which should aid students who might prefer living alone or need special accommodations. He also stated that the overall goal of this project is to create more of a community on campus and that the administration is using student voices to help make this happen.

“I’m in USG, but the majority of students on the student advisory board [for this project] are not in USG so, you know, they’ve taken in the student voice tremendously …” Burton said.
“Especially in this first phase, it is important for students to know that their voices have been heard from representatives from the community, and this is not just an administration thing. So it has been really student-centric, which is really exciting.”

Students can look for this noisy construction to end in a few weeks, then no further disturbance is to be expected until Summer 2020.

Leave a Comment