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Letters to President and Provost from some FNL editorial board members, copied to Cambridge Planning Board

Initial letter, Monday Dec. 3

From: Gordon M. Kaufman
To: Cambridge Planning Board
Re: FW: MIT Request for Up-Zoning
Date: Monday, December 03, 2012 11:28 PM

We wish to share with you the following letter to MIT’s President and Provost prior to the Cambridge Planning Board meeting tomorrow evening. We welcome any thoughts that you may have.

Best, Gordon

Morris A. Adelman Professor of Management Emeritus
E62-437 Sloan School of Management MIT
Cambridge, MA 02142

The Kendall Square Task Force Report on how to manage Institute real estate is a major step forward. This report is the first serious public effort to lay out how to structure longer term Institute real estate policy in a very long time. It is long overdue. The Institute’s forward planning flexibility is strongly constrained — some of us would say “compromised” — by a series of incremental Massachusetts Avenue — Kendall Square real estate decisions over past decades that limit our planning flexibility going forward. To allow the same to occur in the remnant of land set aside in the East Campus for academic and related uses would be tantamount to telling the next several generations of MIT faculty members that there is no room at the inn.

In our judgment, further refinement of our collective thinking about MIT’s medium and longer term real estate development strategy should come before action. Given the dynamics of Cambridge politics and the multiplicity of stakeholders it makes sense for us to insure that internal MIT stakeholders — in addition to investment real estate interests — are accommodated and aligned before proceeding to formal negotiations with the city. The surrounding residential community has spoken out strongly about the lack of concern MITIMCo has evidenced for housing or community interests. MIT will be subject to public criticism for continuing to support a MITIMCo plan that does not accommodate community needs.

We understand that MITIMCo plans to present an up-zoning proposal to the Cambridge Planning Board on Tuesday. We interpret this action as an attempt to “end run” student and faculty input and implement MITIMCo’s current version of how MIT’s Cambridge real estate should be developed. The argument that this is “...just a preliminary approval process...” does not strike us as accurate. The long term stakes are too large to allow indulgence in short term opportunism. Once a zoning proposal is submitted and approved it takes on an administrative and legal life of its own.

We urge you to postpone the MITIMCo attempt to get city approval until more planning dust has settled. MIT and the Cambridge community at large are better served by waiting until an operational plan that better balances our faculty, student and administrative longer term needs with those of our community counterparts is in place.

We look forward to your thoughts.

Nazli Choucri (Political Science)
Jean Jackson (Anthropology)
Gordon Kaufman (Management Science)
Jonathan King (Biology)
Helen Elaine Lee (Comparative Media Studies)
Stephen Lippard (Chemistry)
Ruth Perry (Comparative Media Studies)
James Orlin (Management Science)

Followup letter, Tuesday Dec. 4

From: Gordon M. Kaufman
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 12:05 PM
To: L. Rafael Reif; Chris Kaiser
Cc: Thomas Anton Kochan
Subject: Planning Board Meeting

Dear Rafael and Chris:

We understand, after talking with Task Force members, that there have been productive conversations between the City and Task Force members. It is sensible to have MIT move forward with the proposal for up-zoning at tonight’s Planning Board meeting.

Best, Gordon

Morris A. Adelman Professor of Management Emeritus
E62-437 Sloan School of Management MIT