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Forum to launch residence planning

Planning for MIT's first new undergraduate residence in almost 20 years will begin tomorrow (September 24) with a presentation by planning consultants to representatives of student and faculty organizations in Rm 10-250 at 7pm.

The meeting, which is open to the entire MIT community, is the first step in an extensive community input process which will occur over the next two months to discuss the features and design of the new campus residence hall, which will open in the summer of 2001.

"We hope that the meetings this fall will provide an opportunity for broadly based participation in the planning process by students, faculty, staff and alumni/ae," said Margaret Bates, dean for student life. "If we are to build the best possible residence, then we need to have the best thinking that MIT has to offer, and that is what we are seeking."

Thursday night's presentation, sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE), will include details of the planning process and background information on the location and context of the Vassar Street site planned for the new undergraduate residence.

The meeting will be led by Richard Dober of Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates of Belmont, who will be preparing the facility description, or "program," for the new undergraduate residence based on community input. Mr. Dober, a familiar face on the MIT campus, is an internationally recognized campus planning consultant and the author of four books on campus design.

Mr. Dober will present the start-up assumptions related to the planning of the new residence, including recent MIT policy documents such as the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning, the Student Advisory Committee to the Task Force, and "Principles for the MIT Residential System," developed last spring by a committee chaired by Associate Provost Phillip Clay.

Mr. Dober will also discuss the proposed residence location along Vassar Street in the context of the many planned changes that will be occurring on the west side of campus in the near and distant future. Among these developments are significant landscape improvements to Vassar Street, transforming it into a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly residential street; expansion of athletic and recreation facilities; new graduate student and faculty housing to be developed on MIT land north of the railroad right-of-way and next to University Park; and the proposed Urban Ring Circumferential Transit System, which could provide underground light-rail service with stations along the current railroad right-of-way across from the Westgate residences, at Massachusetts Avenue and at Kendall Square.

At the close of the meeting, members of the MIT community will be invited to take part in small group planning sessions which will occur during October to gain their insights on the features and design of the new residence. Many of the organizations responsible for residence life issues on campus will be invited to take part, including, among others, the Dormitory Council, the Undergraduate Association, the Interfraternity Council, the Committee on Student Affairs, the Committee on Undergraduate Program and housemasters.

For those who cannot attend one of these meetings, a web site will be available with current information on the planning of the residence, a calendar of events and discussion forums. In early November, the planning consultants will report back to the MIT community with a preliminary facility plan for the new residence based on public input.

Initial project planning began last December with President Charles M. Vest's call for the construction of a new campus residence hall as one of several steps taken following the death of freshman Scott Krueger last September 29. Other changes in the residential system which occurred last year included comprehensive planning for Orientation and the establishment of long-term principles for the entire residential system.

The residence will enable the Institute to provide housing for all MIT freshmen on campus by the summer of 2001, and to implement other recommendations of the Task Force for improving the residential system.

Other activities this fall will include the selection of a housemaster and faculty and student leadership to act as "clients" during design and construction of the residence, and the selection of an architect to execute the design of MIT's first new residence since 500 Memorial Drive in 1981. According to Dean Bates, the building will provide a new standard for community living at MIT, and will act as a template for improving the facilities and programs across the Institute's entire residential system.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 23, 1998.

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