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Newbury Space Will Change into Lounge

By Naveen Sunkavally

EDITOR IN CHIEF

The empty space in the Student Center next to La Verdes Market is expected to be soon converted into a student lounge.

“It’s very reasonable to expect [the lounge] to be open by next week,” said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip Walsh said. This conversion, however, will not end MIT’s attempts to find a tenant for the space, which was vacated in 1998 by Newbury Comics.

Walsh said the decision to open up the space for student use came about as a result of MIT’s inability to find a suitable tenant. “We’ve actually exhausted efforts to find a tenant for that space,” he said. “Over the intervening time, there have been no less than five [interested] tenants ... but each time for some or other [efforts] have been unsuccessful.”

UA to furnish new lounge

The Undergraduate Association is working to furnish the lounge so that it will be ready to open next week.

UA President Peter A. Shulman ’01 said that about 600 square feet of the 2100 square foot space will be allotted to advertising kiosks similar to those found elsewhere in the Student Center, and the rest of the space will be used for a lounge. The lounge is expected to contain booths resembling those in Lobby 10, seating, and bulletin board space.

Shulman also said that a committee with UA and CAC representatives is under formation and will determine the long-term plans for the first floor of the Student Center. Responding to student concerns about Toscanini’s possible departure, Shulman said, “No one wants to see Tosci’s leave. The hope is that a compromise can be worked out.”

Director of Real Estate Joseph Maguire said that he expects in the long-term that the first-floor will become more of a place for lounging rather than “just a place to pass through.”

Tenants difficult to attract

Maguire attributed MIT’s failure to find a tenant to the protections that La Verdes and The Coop have in the Student Center. La Verdes has protections that give it the ability to prevent other stores from selling many items such as greeting cards and toiletries, Maguire said.

“Until we resolve things with La Verdes, it’s very difficult [to find a tenant],” Maguire said.

Walsh said the inability to find a tenant is also the product of the “changing nature of retail.” He said that, compared to the 1980s, when the Student Center received its last major renovations, a lot more student services have become available in the area. This abundance of services makes placing an outlet in the Student Center less attractive to businesses.

Changes in the retail market have also affected Toscanini’s, which has not paid its rent in three months and has not expressed interest in talking with MIT, Maguire said. “Historically, [Tosci’s owner Gus Rancatore] has not wanted to tell us what he has taken in” out of fear that his rents would be raised, he said.

The condition of the retail music market influenced Newbury Comics to close its shop. “When they left, they had 18-20 stores; when they came they had two stores. College students are not buying CDs like they used to -- they’re burning them,” Walsh said.

Lounge unrelated to physics plan

Both Shulman and Walsh said that the decision to convert the open space into a lounge was unrelated to the proposal for using the fifth-floor of the Student Center as a physics classroom.

“The reality is that they are completely separate, unrelated,” Shulman said.

Walsh said that the conversion of the first-floor space to a lounge has been under consideration for a longer time than the fifth-floor plan has. “I see the two things as kind of unrelated; general seating in this building has been an issue for the last four to five years,” he said.