Cambridge Criticizes Institute
Council is Concerned Over Dorm TrafficBy Shankar Mukherji
The Cambridge City Council met last night with MIT and Harvard officials to discuss plans for future development.
City councillors were concerned with MIT’s expansion into the neighborhood of Cambridgeport and into the eastern part of Cambridge. The Council was particularly worried about the impact of new housing projects designed to bring all freshmen and 50 percent of the graduate student population into campus housing.
Council requests master plans
The council requested so-called “master plans” from Harvard and MIT, which would detail plans for each university’s future expansion. Stanford University, which has provided a detailed ten-year expansion plan, was frequently used as an example.
“In your ideal we’d like to know where you’re headed,” said Councillor Henrietta Davis. To date, neither Harvard nor MIT has presented such a plan.
Cambridgeport residents believe that the new graduate residences on Albany Street and the corner of Sidney and Pacific streets will disrupt the traffic patterns of surrounding communities. Residents also worried that students will not live in the new dormitories if cheaper housing is available off campus.
Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72 said that MIT intends to reduce traffic within the new developments by “candidly [raising] prices for parking on campus ... and increasing subsidies for public transit.”
Furthermore, he said that filling the new housing “will not be a problem as currently we have a huge excess demand [for campus housing].”
Several members of the Council raised questions about the location of the new undergraduate dormitory on Vassar Street. The building, which will house 350 undergraduates, ten graduate resident tutors and five faculty members, concerns many neighborhood residents. “We’d like you to build new housing,” said Councillor Michael A. Sullivan, “ [but] just not here.”
Council considers lost taxes
Another issue of concern to the City Council was the removal of real estate from the tax rolls.
Sullivan asked, “What will happen when [properties which currently remain on tax rolls] come off?”
Bacow tried to ease concerns that the new plans would reduce property tax revenues, saying that only properties “in the Academic Plan go off tax rolls, and all of the projects presented tonight are already in the Academic Plan.”
Bacow also discussed plans to build up the Institute academic infrastructure. Projects such as the Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry, which will house computer science, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence, and linguistics facilities, were listed as examples of how MIT expansion can benefit both the school and the city of Cambridge.
In an attempt to inform the city of future developments, Bacow mentioned some tentative plans, such as the Microphotonics Center.
He capped off his presentation by unveiling a plan which would put $28.5 million into improving Cambridge’s traffic infrastructure.
In his final summary, Bacow assured the councillors that, although “[MIT] will build new housing,” the Institute will always take community impact into consideration.