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Construction of New Grad Dorm Planned

By Marie Y. Thibault

MIT’s construction plans for the coming year, presented during the annual town gown meeting on Feb. 7, include the creation of a new graduate dormitory. The plans drew comment from Cantabrigians urging for more open green space on the MIT campus, which Chief Facilities Officer William J. Anderson Jr. assured would be considered during the construction process.

Anderson announced at the meeting of the Cambridge Planning Board that plans call for the dormitory to be located next to the Sidney-Pacific graduate dormitory, and also near other graduate student residences such as Edgerton House and Building NW30 (Warehouse). This will create “a genuine graduate student district,” he said. Green space would come in the form of perhaps a quadrangle or courtyard, Anderson said.

The cost of the 400 to 500 bed dorm, to be designed by Boston-based architects William Rawn and Associates, is not yet known. Predictions for completion time are imprecise, but the earliest possible opening date is fall 2008, Anderson said. MIT will apply for building permits later this year, and completion date will become clearer within the next six months, he said. The dormitory will displace a parking lot and the MIT recycling center. It is not yet known where the center will be moved.

Last year, then-Executive Vice President John R. Curry announced that a dormitory was in the plans, but said that an undergraduate dorm was more likely. Anderson said there is potential for an undergraduate dorm in future plans.

At the meeting, he also gave updates on MIT’s other construction projects. A new research building for the Broad Institute, which is a partnership between MIT, Harvard, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, is slated to open very soon, with personnel moving in this month, Anderson said. The building is located next to the Whitehead Institute and across the street from Building 68.

Several projects in the works

Construction on the Physics, Department of Material Sciences and Engineering, Spectroscopy, and Infrastructure project is expected to be completed early 2007, slightly later than the original goal of Dec. 2006.

Construction adjacent to Sloan School facilities on the far east side of campus will restart, since the project, which will provide a renovation and addition to Sloan School and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has been scaled down.

According to the MIT 2005 Annual Town Gown Report, designing is scheduled to begin. A project on E52, the main building of the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, to put all of the management faculty into one building with eight classrooms and 45 student study and community rooms is to restart soon.

Plans for a Center for Cancer Research near Building 66 and the Stata Center and a Music and Theater Arts Teaching Laboratory lack funding, Anderson said.

MIT also plans to demolish a building it owns located in Central Square at 452 Massachusetts Ave., and replace it with a historic replica.

The building will not be preserved because examination of its structure found that restoration was not physically possible, Anderson said. The new building will contain retail, office, and theater space. City Councillor Henrietta Davis said that she is introducing a council order to request creative space at the property.

The western half of Vassar Street, which is divided by Massachusetts Ave., is still scheduled for construction that will introduce a bike path and trees beginning in Summer 2006, Anderson said.

In an assessment of MIT’s utilities, Anderson said that no new parking spaces have been created since 1995. Future construction, such as the building of a graduate dormitory, will result in loss of surface parking, he said, and the long-term solution is to create underground parking, though other options will be considered as well.

Buildings E32, E33, and E34, as well as MIT Medical’s surface parking lot will be demolished, according to the report, and likely to be replaced by an underground parking complex, which may be linked to the development of a new engineering building nearby.

Citizens voice concerns

In response to Anderson’s presentation, several community members voiced concerns about the lack of green space on campus. One Cantabrigian said that MIT should think ahead not just five to ten years, but a century.

MIT can do many more things to take advantage of environmentally friendly technology, she said.

Several years ago, Olin Partnership conducted a study to examine ways to incorporate green space on campus. This study is the guideline MIT uses, Anderson said.

Other community members were interested in two other MIT properties, one located at 130 Brookline Street and another, described as a “rubble-strewn lot with a chain-link fence,” located at the intersection of Watson Street and Brookline Street.

Steven C. Marsh, managing director of real estate, said that the first was purchased for development into a first-class commercial property, though plans have not been finalized. Marsh was not certain about plans for the other property.

Planning Board Member William Tibbs said that next year he would like to have a better sense of MIT’s vision for construction, since the board does not see plans until the formal permitting process.