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Grad Students To Live In Former Warehouse

By Dana Levine
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

After neglecting graduate student housing throughout the residence system design process, MIT’s Planning Office has recommended converting building NW30 into housing for approximately 125 graduate students. The building, located at 224 Albany Street, is currently used for storage.

Although no timetable has been set for the renovations, the estimated completion date is summer 2001. The project’s cost could run as high as $20 million, or $160,000 per bed, according to Graduate Student Council President Luis A. Ortiz G.

Ortiz criticized the plan as “a stop gap measure” and “barely a start” towards housing MIT’s stated goal of fifty percent of it’s 5,600 graduate students.

“I hope that it is a genuine attempt to increase graduate housing,” Ortiz said.

Moreover, NW30 needs significant repairs and upgrades. “Right now, the outside is in pretty bad shape,” said Associate Director of Planning Robert K. Kaynor, who stated that work will soon begin to repair the roof and exterior of the building.

Ortiz described the building as “an old brick factory that needs to be rehabilitated ... This is in a questionable area of Cambridgeport, but hopefully it will eventually be a nice part of the MIT and Cambridge community,” Ortiz said.

Future graduate housing projects could bring MIT closer to goal

Ortiz and Kaynor both described another building, the long delayed Sidney and Pacific dormitory, which could potentially provide housing for 500 to 700 graduate students.

“I know of no time frame for the completion of that project. I had hopes, but they are up and down,” Ortiz said.

He noted that MIT currently only houses 1,500, or 27 percent, of graduate students, and would need to add another 1,300 beds to fulfill its goal. Ortiz believes that the NW30 project will account for “all of the money that MIT can afford to spend on graduate housing.”

Ortiz said that MIT hopes to make the NW30 conversion project financially solvent by only housing graduate students for nine months of the year. During the three summer months, the housing would be used for “program support.”

“The cynical look would be that this is 120 beds in case the new [undergraduate] dorm is late and graduate students need to be moved around,” Ortiz said.

Kaynor stated that this project comes from “a desire to provide more graduate housing. Due to its relatively small size, it should be able to be brought on-line quickly.”

GSC involvement limited

Kaynor, who described his role in the project as “packaging the business plan,” has worked with the Planning Office and the Dean of Graduate Students’ office to develop a solvent proposal. “This project is moving along. Ike Colbert and people from the dean’s office are in on it,” Kaynor said.

Although Kaynor stated that Ortiz and the GSC have had a hand in the planning thus far, Ortiz stated that “we’ve been involved only in the sense that we’ve been told what the Planning Office is doing.” Ortiz described himself as being “very external” to the actual planning process.

“In its last meeting, the Planning Office decided to continue with the design studies,” said Kaynor. In a January meeting with the provost, Ortiz was told that MIT had decided to proceed with plans to convert NW30 to student housing.

When completed, the dormitory will consist of 120 to 125 singles in an undetermined configuration. “That’s not a firm number, but it’s a reasonable number,” Kaynor said.

The project will be somewhat limited by a Massachusetts state requirement that each room must include at least one window.

NW30 was built in 1904, and MIT acquired it from the United States Air Force in 1954. MIT has long planned to use NW30 for housing, but feasibility studies did not begin until fall 1999.