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MIT Look to Improve Housing Options

Tech File Photo
New House under construction in 1974.

By Christopher L. Falling
Staff Reporter

Second in a two-part series about planning projects involving academic, residential, and support buildings.

In addition to academic buildings, the Planning Office evaluates other structures including student dormitories, parking garages, and commercial buildings owned by MIT, according to Director of Planning O. Robert Simha MCP '57.

The Planning Office is looking into new options for graduate and undergraduate housing, as well as renovation of athletic facilities, Simha said. Work on the cogeneration power plant on Vassar Street, new parking facilities, and landscaping projects is already under way, he said.

Student housing evaluated

The recently-formed Strategic Housing Planning Committee is examining options for increasing graduate student housing on campus, as well as the locations of these buildings, said Committee Chair Robert M. Randolph, senior associate dean of undergraduate education and student affairs.

About 30 percent of graduate students live on campus, including graduate resident tutors, said Graduate Housing Office Manager Linda L. Patton.

The committee is looking at the possibility of increasing this number to 50 percent, said Margaret A. Jablonski, associate dean for residence and campus activities.

The area between Sidney Street and the railroad tracks is one possible site for new graduate housing, according to Simha.

But construction at this site would not actually begin for another three years, Randolph said.

There are no immediate plans to increase the amount of undergraduate housing, but many of the dormitories are considered for renovation, Jablonski said. The recently released Housing and Residence and Orientation Week report, prepared by an Undergraduate Association committee, recommended renovations in Baker House, Random Hall, and Senior House.

"We are trying to educate ourselves about what MIT has done in the past to meet its housing needs, such as renting buildings and the contributions of fraternities and sororities," Randolph said. "We are also looking to see what is available to meet the housing needs in the years to come and to anticipate any problems before they arise," he said.

The athletic facilities on west campus may also be renovated, Simha said. "Some of our existing facilities are old World War II aircraft hangers, woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our population," Simha said in a Planning Office videotape, "MIT in Cambridge, Past, Present and Future."

"The new facilities will likely be built in stages as funds can be raised," Simha said.

Cogen plant to start in 1995

The cogeneration plant under construction on Vassar Street near Building 42 is expected to begin operation in spring 1995, according to Simha. He added that the surrounding street surfaces have been damaged by the construction and will need to be repaired.

"When MIT moved to Cambridge in 1916, it was originally designed to generate its own electricity and steam," Simha said. At that time, it was less expensive to buy the electricity and steam, but now it is less expensive to produce it, he said.

Another project already under way is the consolidation of MIT's parking facilities into new garages. The former commercial garage at 310 Massachusetts Ave. is currently being renovated to house Safe Ride vans and Physical Plant vehicles, Simha said. The new garages will free the western portion of Vassar Street, which is the site of several parking lots, for other uses such as housing, Simha said.

The Institute continues to landscape areas on and around campus. One example is the new garden that is being installed north of Building 56, Simha said.

Landscaping is also planned on Carleton Street, Hayward Street, Amherst Street, and Vassar Street west of Massachusetts Avenue, Simha said. This is in accordance with an agreement MIT made with Cambridge last year. The Institute donated land to the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation shelter in return for the lease to portions of these streets.

Also, bicycle lanes will be added on Vassar Street, Simha said.

MIT has recently completed work on 640 Memorial Dr., west of Next House, which is leased to corporations and light industries, Simha said.