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MIT considering NW30 for graduate housing

MIT is studying the financial feasibility of a plan to convert the former Equipment Exchange, a three-story brick warehouse at 224 Albany St. (Building NW30), into a residence for about 125 first-year graduate students and summer visitors.

The rents of the summer visitors would subsidize the rents for graduate students under a self-sustaining financial plan developed in a feasibility study this past fall. The building could be ready for occupancy as early as August 2001.

The property has been part of the long-term housing plan for graduate students for many years, according to Robert K. Kaynor, associate director of the Office of Planning. "As with the 143 Albany St. building that is now Edgerton House, NW30 is a former industrial building which lends itself to an interesting residential use," he said. The building is located at the corner of Pacific Street and is adjacent to the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Across the street is the site of more future graduate student housing, and University Park will break ground later this year on approximately 350 units of apartment housing a block away on Pacific Street.

MIT has hired a local architect and MIT graduate, Martha Ondras of the S/L/A/M Collaborative, to design a residence for 120 to 125 students plus a faculty residence, meeting rooms, and a variety of amenities such as a study lounge, fitness center, laundry and roof terrace. Most of the rooms would be singles, and each would have modest cooking facilities and a private bath. Ms. Ondras has designed the renovation of several MIT buildings, including Senior House, the Building W11 Religious Center and the two brownstones known as the annex to McCormick House.

The building is 90,000 gross square feet. Current cost estimates for the renovation range from $14 million to $20 million, Mr. Kaynor said. Final approval will require firm cost estimates, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow said.

The building is three stories tall at the front and four stories tall at the rear. It was built in 1904 and was acquired by MIT in 1958 from the Air Force, which used it as the home for its Cambridge Research Laboratory and the Instrumentation Lab (now Draper Laboratory). More recently, MIT has used it for departmental storage space and for the Equipment Exchange.

As part of MIT's continuing commitment to housing graduate students, the Institute's Building Committee requested a financial analysis in fall 1999 to examine the feasibility of moving the project forward. This preliminary study led to a business plan and initiation of a more complete feasibility study which will support the conversion into a graduate student residence.

Mr. Kaynor said the graduate housing fund, which also financed the renovation of Green Hall and Edgerton House into graduate housing, will provide some of the support for the project, and Conference Services will charge market rates to summer visitors, thereby helping to underwrite the student rents during the academic year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 16, 2000.

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