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Dennis Frenchman named head of the MIT Center for Real Estate

Architect and urban designer brings to the role decades of global expertise on the transformation of cities
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Dennis Frenchman, the Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Design and Planning, is the newly appointed director of the MIT Center for Real Estate.
Dennis Frenchman, the Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Design and Planning, is the newly appointed director of the MIT Center for Real Estate.
Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Dennis Frenchman, the Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Design and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), has been named the new faculty director of the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE). He assumed the role on July 1.

“We are very excited to have Dennis take on this role,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “He brings to CRE seasoned leadership skills and bold ideas that will expand the frontiers of research and innovation, strengthen the link between urban design and development, and broaden the international reach of the center.”

Frenchman, who serves on the CRE and DUSP faculties, holds dual master’s degrees in architecture and city planning from MIT, where he has taught since 1983. A registered architect, he has a distinguished record of award-winning practice in Boston, most recently as senior principal of Tekuma Frenchman Urban Design, working on large-scale development projects in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. His practice and research focuses on the transformation of cities, and he is an expert with worldwide experience in the application of digital technology to city design.

Frenchman has led MIT research efforts for the Energy Foundation to develop new models for clean energy urbanization in China. He has played a leading role in the design and development of innovation districts around the world, from Medellín, Colombia, to Seoul, South Korea. And he is part of an interdisciplinary team from MIT engaged in research collaborations with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) in the Netherlands, using the city of Amsterdam as a living laboratory and test bed for urban innovation.

At MIT, Frenchman has led key initiatives in design and urbanism for his department and the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). For 15 years he headed the school’s Joint Program in City Design and Development. From 1987 to 2016, he co-led and taught the “Beijing Studio,” an urban design program jointly organized by MIT and Tsinghua University that was one of the earliest and longest-running academic engagements between the U.S. and China. Within the Center for Real Estate, Frenchman co-founded the Real Estate Innovation Lab in 2016 with professor David Geltner and research scientist Andrea Chegut.

In 2016, Frenchman developed and helped to launch DesignX, the SA+P entrepreneurship accelerator aimed at ventures related to design and the built environment, and serves as its faculty director. He will continue in this role as the program enters its third year, under the leadership of Executive Director Gilad Rosenzweig.

Dennis Frenchman will take over as CRE faculty director from Albert Saiz, an associate professor of urban economics and real estate. Saiz will remain on the faculty of both the CRE and DUSP.

“We thank Albert for an excellent tenure as director during which he greatly improved on the competitiveness of the program, built the center’s capacities in executive and online education, and emphasized social responsibility and sustainability in educating the real estate developers of the future,” said Sarkis.

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