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Along with existing building renovations from past years, MIT now plans to construct multiple new facilities and living space for several academic disciplines and for the increasing graduate student population. The plans were presented to the Cambridge Planning Board at its annual public town gown meeting Tuesday night. The town gown meeting also included presentations from Harvard and Lesley Universities, reviewing the institutions’ current activities, student population data, institutional housing, and future development plans.

At the town gown meeting, MIT mainly discussed its recently highlighted research projects as well as current and future academic building construction plans, such as the new Cancer Research Facility and the expansion of the Sloan School of Management. (For full 2006 town gown reports from all three universities, see http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/cp/tg/index.html.)

Research, community projects

Chief Facilities Officer William J. Anderson, Jr. presented a varied selection of the Institute’s most recent research on cancer as well as projects in environmental engineering and brain and cognitive sciences. During the open public discussion period, Cantabrigian Roy Bercaw expressed concerns about a plausible “leak” from MIT’s nanotechnology and cancer laboratories.

“Some of these particles are so small, they can escape. It creates a problem for what effect it would have on people if it gets into their food or if they breathe it in,” Bercaw said. “…The threats from the bio labs that people are upset about should be addressed.”

Anderson also discussed MIT’s building community efforts in expanding the MIT Museum to offer more learning opportunities for middle and high school students. Other building community projects involved residential dining for graduate students in the northwest campus and the IDEAS competition.

“The IDEAS competition challenges student teams to develop and implement designs that will make a positive impact in the world,” Anderson said at the meeting. “It promotes public service and student enterprise.”

Building new academic facilities

Anderson continued his presentation with a list of the Institute’s academic facilities projects. An ongoing venture called Physics, Department of Material Science and Engineering, Spectroscopy, and Infrastructure project seeks to consolidate the Physics Department space and extensively renovate portions of Buildings 4, 6, and 8. PDSI construction is scheduled to be completed in 2007.

The original completion date for the PDSI project was at the end of 2006; however, the demolition of Building 6A was delayed in 2005. The project involves the demolition of Building 6A, construction of a new Building 6C, and renovation and infrastructure upgrades in surrounding buildings. According to President Susan Hockfield’s construction announcement in September 2006, most of the PDSI construction is expected to end by March 2007.

Other notable enhanced academic projects involve a new Cancer Research Facility at the corner of Main and Ames St., Media Lab and School of Architecture and Planning expansion, Music and Theater Arts Teaching Laboratory as a musical and theatrical teaching facility, Sloan School Expansion with the demolition of Building E56, and the Broad Institute. The Media Lab and School of Architecture and Planning construction and the Sloan School Expansion are scheduled to begin in 2007.

Furthermore, MIT has future plans for more academic building developments in place of Buildings E32, E33, E34, and E42. All of these buildings have been or are scheduled for demolition after proper relocations have been made. To compensate for the loss of the current parking space in this large area as well as the expected future academic density, an underground parking structure may be built as part of an academic building in this location.

Housing and public improvement projects underway

In addition to these academic projects, MIT plans to improve student housing. The new Ashdown House under construction at the corner of Pacific and Albany St., scheduled to be completed in summer 2008, will house approximately 550 graduate students.

“Its proximity to other graduate residences such as Edgerton, Warehouse, and Sidney-Pacific will create a strong graduate community in the northwest part of campus,” Anderson said in his presentation.

The old Ashdown House on Memorial Dr. will be converted into an undergraduate dormitory.

Another issue of the undergraduate enrollment decrease was addressed by Steven C. Marsh, the managing director of real estate for the MIT Investment Management Company. MIT plans to compensate for the decrease of 566 undergraduate students from 1983 to 2006 by enrolling 100 additional students per year up to 400 new students starting in 2008.

The Institute is also working with the City of Cambridge to improve general city infrastructure. Particularly, MIT is heavily involved in creating a residential street on Vassar St. that will include landscape, pedestrian and bicycle paths, traffic calming strategies, and consolidated utility lines. This Vassar Streetscape West construction began in November 2006 and is scheduled to finish in 2008.

A new public improvement project proposal involves the road connecting Pacific St. and Vassar St across the Grant Junction Corridor rail tracks. MIT hopes to consult this pedestrian road and lanscape project with city officials in the future.

Schools more environment-friendly

Throughout the meeting, both MIT and Harvard emphasized their buildings’ environmental sustainability, measured by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. MIT predicts PDSI to receive a LEED certification, Sloan School for Management to earn a LEED silver or gold certification, and for the new Ashdown House to gain a LEED silver cerfication.

Steven Winter, a member of the Cambridge Planning Board, praised MIT and Harvard’s efforts to meet LEED standards. The rest of the board was pleased with the universities’ thorough presentations on their future endeavours.

Transportation demands met

MIT also reported on the their transportation demand management programs, presenting a copy of the transportation survey offered to students from Oct. 23, 2006 to Nov. 3, 2006. Free transportation services, such as Tech Shuttle, Northwest shuttle, Boston daytime shuttle, and SafeRide shuttle were mentioned, as well as subsidized automobile services, such as Zipcars. Currently, MIT hosts seven Zipcars on campus, providing hourly car rental service and lowering the financial commitment required of the individual. MIT sponsored account is available to undergraduates over the age of 21, graduate students, and employees.

“I am very impressed by MIT’s transportation agencies, such as the Zipcars, and by the greatly detailed transportation survey,” Winters said.

Presenters from Harvard and Lesley Universities also discussed their annual Town Gown reports, concentrating on graduate and undergraduate housing, respectively. Harvard plans to offer graduate housing in the Quad houses by relocating their undergraduates into newer Allston dormitories across the river while Lesley plans to construct four additional dormitories to accommodate for the expected threefold increase in enrollment by 2008.