What’s down with Town Gown

Greening, MIT 150, real estate discussed at meeting

Every year, some of MIT’s most important administrators stand before the people of Cambridge. The City, which is largely defined by its universities, asks that Harvard, MIT, Lesley University, and Cambridge College give annual public Town Gown reports about what each institution has been doing for the last 365 days and what the future has in store. Because in a city of slightly over 100,000 people, it’s no small wonder that some of the nation’s largest, richest, and most influential schools have a big impact on how this town works.

Theresa M. Stone SM ’76, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer, began the presentation before the Cambridge Planning Board and a public audience at the Citywide Senior Center this past Tuesday. Topping her list of MIT’s most notable recent initiatives was the ongoing MIT 150 celebration. In speaking of Institute activities that have the most relevance to the rest of Cambridge, Stone emphasized the April 30 MIT 150 “Open House” — an opportunity for the general public to “explore [MIT’s] labs and offices.” The Open House coincides with the first day of the Cambridge Science Festival, and jointly, the events are intended to “showcase Cambridge as an international leader in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

GreeningMIT, the Institute’s latest sustainability program, also shared the spotlight. Stone noted to the Planning Board that MIT’s collaboration with NStar to reduce MIT’s electrical use by 15 percent beat its first-year goal by about 30 percent, or 13 million kilowatt-hours. She also highlighted MIT’s all-time low single-occupancy vehicle rate (SOV). An SOV rate describes the percentage of people who commute to MIT — for work or study — and drive alone the entire way. Since 2002, MIT’s SOV dropped from 27 percent to 20 percent, with other commuters carpooling, biking, walking, or taking public transportation.

But MIT’s impact on the City of Cambridge goes well beyond the borders of campus proper. Steven C. Marsh, Managing Director of Real Estate at the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo), updated the City on MIT’s investment property across the city. Investment property is owned by MIT but often leased to clients so that the buildings can be used for retail or laboratory space. MITIMCo has secured a number of new leases and letters of intent, which indicate that lease negotiations are in progress:

640 Memorial Drive. MIT executed a lease with Sanofi-Aventis, an international pharmaceutical company, to move their oncology headquarters to half of this building, located past the far western edge of campus. Sanofi-Aventis will make the move this fall.

281 Albany Street. After renovations, MIT executed a lease with Aileron Therapeutics, which now occupies the building.

177 Massachusetts Ave. As part of MIT’s mission to support an “innovation cluster” in this area, MIT has leased the Analog Devices building and adjacent lots to the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, across the street from their existing campus. Novartis will invest $600 million into the construction of laboratory and office space at the location, in addition to ground-floor retail space. MIT Building N42 (IS&T Helpdesk) has also been leased as part of this deal.

300 Massachusetts Ave. In conjunction with Forest City Boston, MIT will develop the property north of Random Hall — part of the block between Blanche and Landsdowne Streets — into an office and laboratory facility with ground-floor retail space. The Tech reported last December that the existing buildings there, including Thailand Cafe, All Asia, J.N. Philips Auto Glass, and MIT Building NW62, would be demolished, and that new construction could begin as early as December 2011.

450 Massachusetts Ave. Veggie Galaxy, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant, will move in to some of the currently vacant ground-floor space at the building occupied by the Central Square Theater. Next door, a letter of intent has been signed with Moksa, which will offer street-style Asian food.

1 Broadway St. A ground-floor lease has been signed with Firebrand Saints, a restaurant and bar which will feature seasonal outdoor seating. Another letter of intent for the property has been signed with Venture Cafe, which aims to “provide a resource for the Boston entrepreneurial and innovation communities” and “enable fresh and useful conversations,” according to its website. Currently, the Venture Cafe is a weekly event held on the 4th floor of 1 Broadway. Venture Cafe is “most of the way through negotiating a lease,” according to its blog.

610 Main St. Currently a surface parking lot, MIT has proposed the construction of a building which will house 418,000 square feet of laboratory and office space at this property near Technology Square. According to the Town Gown report, MIT plans to start construction when an anchor tenant is secured.

MIT wrapped up their presentation with a 3D Google Earth flyover of locations set for future expansion and recently completed construction projects on campus. The 2010 Town Gown report is available at