MIT is embarking on a project to design and construct new graduate housing at the west end of campus on the site of the West Lot parking area and Building W89 (MIT Police). Currently in an early planning stage, the apartment-style residence hall is expected to provide 550 new graduate student housing beds, completing the October 2017 commitment MIT made to add 950 beds to the graduate housing system on campus.
Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Provost Martin Schmidt, and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz announced the project in a letter to the graduate student community today. They highlighted the benefits of the project, noting that “graduate students and graduate student families will now have access to the convenience and independence of apartment-style living in a residence hall minutes away from the heart of campus. We are pleased to be diversifying our housing portfolio to include an option that promises to be an exciting alternative to living off-campus for many students.”
New housing will be constructed on West Lot parking site
Construction of a pair of buildings located along Vassar Street, on the site of Building W89 and the West Lot parking area adjacent to Simmons Hall, will begin after the completion of planning and design work that will be conducted over the next couple of years. In a study of potential locations by the Office of Campus Planning, this site stood out as an ideal solution for expanding graduate student housing options while also reinforcing the connection to Fort Washington Park and other graduate student communities, as well as further defining the Vassar Street corridor.
“We are very grateful for the long-term opportunities this project presents,” says Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “Giving more graduate students the opportunity to fully engage in the Institute’s vibrant campus life is an essential way of enhancing their MIT experience. This exciting new project makes that possible, and it makes living at MIT more attractive to them and to their families.”
Graduate housing is a top priority
MIT’s graduate student population has been growing steadily over the past two decades. In recent years, two different Graduate Student Housing Working Group reports highlighted student housing as one of MIT’s competitive strengths and noted MIT’s attention to expanding on-campus graduate student housing over the years. In 1980 and 1990, MIT provided housing for 27 percent of its graduate students; today, MIT provides housing for 38 percent of the graduate student population, satisfying the preferences of today’s students, with fewer shared bedrooms and more efficiencies.
Both the working group’s Report to the Provost (May 2014) and the working group’s Report to the Chancellor (August 2018) recommended that MIT undertake a further expansion of student housing, and the findings encouraged MIT to consider flexible and new on-campus housing options. Families, in particular, face housing challenges in the Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts area based on cost and availability. Both working groups noted that an increase in one- and two-bedroom apartment-style units would help address unmet demand and would give more graduate student families the opportunity to benefit from living on campus.
With these recommendations in mind, MIT made a commitment in October 2017 to its graduate students (and the City of Cambridge, as part of the Volpe zoning petition) to add 950 beds to MIT’s graduate student housing stock.
Accommodations for student families and singles
As planned, the new West Campus graduate residence will fulfill the 2017 commitment and will respond to the working group reports by providing a mix of housing unit types that align with the evolving needs of graduate students and student families.
On-campus graduate housing at MIT, which currently includes more than 2,500 beds across eight residence halls, will soon be supplemented by the new graduate student residence hall under construction in Kendall Square, providing more than 450 beds total (replacing Eastgate beds and adding 250 net new beds). The West Campus student residence is expected to add 550 new graduate student housing beds in a range of apartment styles, including single units as well as larger units suitable for families. These initiatives, in concert with the addition of 150 new graduate student housing beds resulting from renovations, will fulfill MIT’s commitment to add 950 beds to its graduate student housing system.
Next steps for the housing project
MIT is planning to work with an experienced third-party campus housing developer to design, develop, and operate the student residence hall. The developer will provide the financial capital for construction, giving MIT the financial flexibility and bandwidth to expedite adding beds while reserving MIT resources for making capital renewal improvements and addressing deferred maintenance work throughout the student housing system. In the upcoming months, MIT and the developer will work together to establish an agreement and formulate a program plan informed by the Graduate Student Housing Working Group reports.
As part of the project, the MIT Police office, currently in Building W89, is expected to be relocated to accommodate the new complex. Planning for this move is underway, and more details will be shared when available. The project team is also working closely with the Parking and Transportation Office regarding the parking spaces that will be displaced. The Parking and Transportation Office will work with individual parkers on assignments, taking into consideration proximity to housing and offices.
The graduate community will have opportunities to continue to engage in discussion around the residence project, providing the project team with feedback and valuable input. MIT is committed to begin permitting for this project by the end of December 2020, and construction is expected to begin in 2021-22.