The last time housing other than dorms was built specifically for members of the MIT community, Harry Truman was in the White House. Developers broke ground in 1951 on Conantum, designed by an MIT architecture professor for young faculty and graduate students and advertising homes “22 minutes from Harvard Square”–by car. (The site is in Concord.) Despite several initiatives in the decades that followed to build more housing closer to campus, à la 100 Memorial Drive, none got off the ground.
But in fall 2008, the University Residential Communities will open for occupancy at 303 Third Street in Cambridge–about a 10-minute walk from MIT. The eight-story coöperative building’s 168 units will range in size from one to three bedrooms and in price from about $510,000 to nearly $1.5 million. Residents will have access to a pool, fitness center, library, media room, medical exam room, and dining club.
“There’s been a great passion [at MIT for housing], but it tends to fall below the fold when dealing with other priorities, like scholarships or research funding,” says O. Robert Simha, MCP ‘57, director of planning at MIT from 1960 to 2000. “So we’re taking control.” Simha, President Emeritus Paul Gray ‘54, SM ‘55, ScD ‘60, and others partnered with developers in 2004 to build a residence for MIT-affiliated empty nesters. But after surveying 1,200 MIT faculty, staff, and alumni over 55, they made the homes available to anyone with connections to MIT, Harvard, or Massachusetts General Hospital. (Cambridge will sell 21 units through its affordable-housing program.) MIT has no official involvement in the project.
View artist's renderings of 303 Third Street
“Students and faculty complain there’s a lack of community at MIT,” says Simha, who plans to move in. “[Living at 303 Third Street] is a way to connect with students after five o’clock.”