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An uncertain future: Central Campus demolition begins this week

Central Campus is officially crumbling. 

Crews began destroying apartments on Central Campus this week, according to Duke Today. The demolition will take place for a few months, and more than 400,000 square feet of buildings will come down, the news release added.

The University has no long-term plan for what to do with the land yet. To replace what used to be student housing on Central, Duke will house hundreds of students in the brand new Hollows dormitories and apartments at 300 Swift. 

Central’s formerly run-down apartments struggled with mold, and administrators have said the campus wasn’t central to anything. 

“We’ve known from the day I arrived that Central Campus was done, that those buildings are ready to be retired,” Larry Moneta, former vice president for student affairs, told The Chronicle in 2017. He came to Duke in 2001. “The money we put into them was just to keep them going until we could build something new.”

As detailed in a recent Chronicle documentary, Central Campus was not originally owned by Duke. Erwin Mills originally owned it to house workers until the University purchased the land in 1964. Duke’s Board of Trustees approved a plan to build student housing, which it has been for more than 40 years. 

It began as graduate student housing. Then in the 1980s, more undergraduates started living on Central. It eventually became a home for many selective living groups. 

Now, six acres of Central have been committed to expand the Duke Gardens and some more for parking, but the rest of the roughly 60 acre property’s fate remains undetermined. The Future of Central Campus task force has said it doesn’t want the land to turn into a bunch of different small projects. 


“The Central Campus Task Force concludes that the land referred to as Central Campus is a gem, a most valuable asset of the university,” the summary of a task force report said. “It is strategically located and should be carefully planned and developed only for the most compelling opportunities that will benefit the university over a long period of time and realize the highest potential of the land.”

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