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Demolition of the Design School building at 888 Memorial drive--occupied for a Boston Women's Center last March--began Monday.
Harvard will not construct anything on the site, known as the Treeland site, for the next three years, according to Donald C. Moulton, Coordinator for Community Affairs.
The building is being torn down now because the Design School no longer uses it, and it is unsuitable for future use. The vacant building is a maintenance problem for the university and a "blight on the landscape," Moulton said.
An ad hoc group of Boston-area women occupied the building last year on March 6, International Women's Day. They intended to use it for a day-care center, self-defense lessons, a meeting place for gay women, and other activities for Boston women.
Harvard officials, explaining that the building's lack of heat and water made it unfit for human habitation, tried to convince the women to leave. The women insisted on staying in spite of a rumored bust. A tense week of negotiation ended peacefully when the women were given funds for the purchase of another building.
The building is being fumigated before demolition "for sanitary reasons," said Joseph Stasa, Assistant Director of Planning. "You know what happened there earlier in the spring. The building was invaded. Something might spread while it is being demolished." He denied that the women's occupation influenced the decision to tear it down, however.
The Riverside Tenants Council, claiming that Harvard had unfairly taken possession of the land, had earlier demanded that Harvard construct low-cost housing on the site. At that time Harvard intended to use it for faculty housing.
"The council knows that the site is being cleared," Moulton said. "They are not concerned because they know that Harvard will not develop it immediately. They are involved instead on the River St. Howard St. Project."
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