Tulane University’s plan to tear down the former home of the Newcomb College Institute to make way for an expansion of its dining hall has received initial approval from city officials.
Tulane first asked the city for permission to tear down the building in May 2014. It got a split vote from the Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee, which normally would have sent the request to the City Council for a final decision.
However, Newcomb alumnae sent more than 150 letters to City Councilwoman Susan Guidry opposing the proposal, and Tulane withdrew its request in early July.
Since then, the university has been working with the councilwoman’s office to address any concerns about the project, said Paul Harang, Tulane’s director of community and neighborhood relations.
“We withdrew the application, and we’re here again,” Harang told the NCDAC on Monday.
The building was erected in 1908 and sold to Tulane a year later for use by the music department. It subsequently became the home of the dean of Newcomb College and then the Newcomb College Institute.
The university plans to use the space for a $50 million expansion of the school’s dining facilities that also will have classroom, study and administrative space, architect David Waggonner said. The Newcomb College Institute will have space in the new building, as well.
“The space will be larger than NCI’s current space, unified, and designed specifically for the institute’s needs,” Harang wrote in an email, adding, “This project will draw students back to the center of campus in a way that will enhance the undergraduate experience.”
Ultimately, Waggonner said, the crucial space next door to the busy Lavin-Bernick Center is more important than the old building itself.
“It’s a wood-frame stucco building that has no unique architectural or historic characteristics,” he said.
Unlike last year’s NCDAC meeting, the project drew little scrutiny Monday from the panel of city officials. One noted briefly that the building is in the interior of the campus and does not face the public. They then voted 7-2 in favor of the demolition.
Jenel Hazlett, one of the “no” votes, said she opposed the project because she didn’t see much difference in it from last year.
The demolition request now goes to the City Council for final approval.