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Senior Faculty Propose MIT Housing Nearby for Alumni

By Beckett W. Sterner and Theresa F. Eugenio

A group of senior and retired MIT faculty have submitted a proposal to construct a housing community for MIT affiliates, including faculty and staff, who are age 55 and older.

“A group of faculty came together and are interested in concepts expanding the possibilities” of living around the MIT community, said Provost Robert A. Brown.

Former MIT President Paul E. Gray ’54, who was one of the faculty who submitted the proposal, said that their goal is to “keep present members of the MIT community -- those who haven’t yet retired, faculty -- closer to MIT and more in contact with what’s going around the place.” He said the proposal would allow residents to live in an urban area and be close enough to MIT to stay involved with Institute activities.

The community would likely include between 150 and 200 units of housing similar to apartments or condominiums, Gray said, and would provide some services to residents as they aged, although he said it would not be an assisted living facility.

The group of faculty had submitted the proposal about a month ago, Brown said, but the final decision on whether MIT would support the plan would probably be made under the administration of MIT’s next president.

Gray said that the facility would not be finished until 2006 or early 2007 at the earliest, although “it’s way too soon to answer.”

MIT studies interest, feasibility

In order to evaluate potential interest in the proposal, the Office of the Provost assisted the faculty in carrying out a survey of 1,050 MIT affiliates. The survey garnered 550 responses, 360 of which requested further information on the project.

The respondents showed a high interest in participation in on-campus activities such as academic seminars and committees, teaching, and advising. In addition, the respondents said that they would like to live closer to the MIT campus.

About 55 percent of the respondents plan to move in the future and of those, 54.6 percent plan on settling in an urban area and almost half plan on moving into condominiums.

Plan represents only part of MIT

One of the major problems facing all MIT faculty, staff and students is finding affordable housing in Cambridge.

The plan submitted by Gray and others would provide nearby, affordable housing primarily for members of the MIT community who often have less direct involvement with the Institute, although the plan may extend their participation further.

Brown said that it is not clear yet to what extent MIT would provide support for the plan, and that it would in part depend on the project’s cost and long term income.

In addition, he said, “this is one of a number of different constituencies that you can imagine,” and new faculty members are not represented in the proposal.

It’s a question of “who do you want to subsidize,” he said.

Gray said that “we don’t know yet if there’s sufficient interest in the MIT community or if there are sites that are available and affordable,” but “the idea is to make it much simpler for persons, as they age and lose capabilities, to have access to what they need to stay at home.”