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MIT Settles With Dorm Abutter

Undergrad Dorm Still Expected to be Completed by Fall 2002

By Frank Dabek

STAFF REPORTER

The Institute has resolved its dispute with the business abutting the site of the proposed Vassar St. undergraduate dormitory, allowing construction to begin immediately.

Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 said that MIT had “resolved the issues with the abutter. ... The dorm can move forward.” The dormitory, originally slated to open in 2001, was delayed when Cambridge Executive Enterprises filed an appeal of the proposed building’s IPOP permit, which is required of all buildings in Cambridge greater than 50,000 square feet.

It will now open in the fall of 2002, Bacow said.

The terms of the agreement are being held strictly confidential: Bacow would not say what concessions MIT made to the complainant but said that no changes had been made to the building’s design. He would not even reveal which side had requested the confidentiality clause.

Anne McCants, associate professor of history and head of the new dorm’s Founder’s Group, said that the agreement was reached on Friday. “I’ve been on cloud nine all day,” McCants said.

With legal snags behind them, the Founder’s group can now “get back to the real project: building a community.”

McCants said that the group hopes to break ground before the first frost.

Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02, a student member of the Founders’ Group and Dormitory Council President, said that the group would continue its advisory role now that work is underway again. “The entire project was brought to a standstill” by the delay, Roberts said.

The group received so little information from the administration during the time between the announcement of the appeal and its settlement that Roberts compared administrative policy to a “gag order.”

“Having this delay certainly made it more difficult,” he said, but the group will soon invite several current sophomores to join the group and hopes to renew interest in the new dormitory.

The first announcement of the settlement came in an e-mail message from President Charles M. Vest to all current students. Vest said in the e-mail that “construction activity will begin ... within the next few weeks.”

Cambridge Executive Enterprises previously stated that they filed the appeal because of concerns that the dorm would disrupt traffic and parking on Vassar St. Additionally, MIT failed to properly inform Cambridge Executive Enterprises, an abutter, of the required community meetings before the Planning Board meeting.

Roberts, however, said that many involved in the project suspected that John Donovan, a former Sloan professor, held a grudge against MIT and used his position as an abutter to disrupt an important MIT project.

McCants pointed out that Cambridge Executive Enterprises waited until the last day to file their appeal but did not speculate on Donovan’s motivations for filing the appeal.

Donovan and Cambridge Executive Associates were not immediately available for comment.

The new residence hall was originally proposed in the wake of the death of Scott S. Krueger ’01 and was the keystone in a plan to house all freshmen on campus by fall of 2001.

That deadline was pushed back indefinitely by delays, but it is now fixed at 2002. The building also played a prominent role in MIT’s six million dollar settlement with Krueger’s parents.