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MIT Announces $750M Campus Expansion

By Valery Brobbey

In the next few years, buildings on the MIT campus are going to get some company. President Hockfield announced expansion plans totaling one million square feet in a message to the MIT community on Wednesdsay night.

“Last week, the Executive Committee of the Corporation formally approved our moving ahead with two critical new projects,” Hockfield said in the message.

The two projects in question are an extension to the existing Media Laboratory building and the new building for the MIT Sloan School of Management to be located on Memorial Drive and Main Street. Construction on these projects are set to begin in February and March 2007, Hockfield’s e-mail stated.

Another new project on the horizon is the construction of a building for the Center for Cancer Research to be located between the Ray and Maria Stata Center and Building 68.

In addition, construction of the new graduate student dormitory, NW35, is underway, according to Hockfield. NW35 will be located between Sidney-Pacific and the Warehouse. Hockfield said that she anticipates the completion of most of the PDSI (Physics, Department of Material Sciences and Engineering, Spectroscopy, Infrastructure) project in March 2007. The project includes demolition of Building 6A, construction of a new Building 6C, and renovation and infrastructure upgrades in surrounding buildings. The original completion date for PDSI was the end of 2006.

“This next phase in the development of our campus will help ensure that MIT continues to lead in generating new knowledge, fueling innovation, and educating leaders,” Hockfield said in the e-mail.

Many other universities are also in the midst of expanding, as reported in Wednesday’s Boston Globe. Harvard University is planning to expand to Allston, Mass., Boston College is working on plans for a campus overhaul, and Northeastern, Boston University, and Emerson College have completed expansions in the past few years, according to the Globe article.

Kirk D. Kolenbrander, vice president for Institute affairs, estimated the total costs for the campus development projects to be $750 million dollars, but added in an interview that “we are still coming to understand the cost” associated with these projects.

All documents necessary for construction to start on the Media Lab extension have been completed, according to Pamela P. Delphenich, director of project management at the MIT Department of Facilities. The site for the extension had been cleared a few years ago, but construction did not begin because the “funding target hadn’t been reached,” Delphenich said in a phone interview.

According to the Globe in reference to the Media Lab extension, the new building will house the School of Architecture and Planning and MIT’s program in comparative media studies. The Media Lab project will cost $120 million and include 163,000 square feet of space, the Globe said.

The Center for Cancer Research “has been in mind for a number of years,” Kolenbrander said. An MIT News Office press release stated that, “since the mid-1970s, MIT’s institutional commitment to cancer research has contributed significantly to our evolving understanding of the genetic and cellular basis of the disease. MIT will extend its leadership in this field into new frontiers with the new facility.”

The new facility will be located in the area between the Stata Center and Building 68 that is currently being used as a parking lot. Planning for the Center for Cancer Research is at an early stage and an architect has not yet been assigned to the project, according to Delphenich.

According to Delphenich, the Sloan building will have a parking garage underneath it which she hopes will be large enough to offset the loss of parking spaces as a result of the construction of the Center for Cancer Research. The Sloan building is due to be completed in the fall of 2010.

As part of Hockfield’s Energy Initiative, Delphenich said, the Sloan building and NW35 will “incorporate elements of sustainability … in a way to decrease energy use.” She said that consultants have been involved in these projects since the beginning.

Recent additions to the MIT campus include the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex opened in 2005, the Stata Center opened in 2004 and Simmons Hall opened in 2002.

Meeting held to present NW35 plans

At a meeting in graduate dormitory Ashdown House last night, the architects of NW35 showcased a model of the new dormitory. As presented at the meeting, NW35 will have corridors with natural lighting and two courtyards with a lounge situated in between. It will also have the Thirsty Ear Pub, which is currently located in Ashdown House.

Construction for NW35, which will be located near Sidney-Pacific, is set to start in the next few months, Delphenich said, and will be ready by the fall of 2008.

“NW35 will become a vibrant graduate community,” Kolenbrander said. The new dormitory will have 552 beds in total and a housemaster’s suite.

Plans for NW35 were first announced in February 2006 to surprise on the part of the graduate community.

According to the Globe article, Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy was not concerned about the new buildings creating traffic or other problems, and said that the graduate residence will help ease the local housing shortage.

Rents rates for the new graduate dormitory have not yet been established although it is expected to be higher than rents at Ashdown.

After the completion of NW35, Ashdown is expected to be converted to an undergraduate dormitory. Although not yet approved, “New Ashdown” has been suggested as a name for NW35.

Hanhan Wang contributed to the reporting of this article.