New apartment-style graduate residence to be built on Vassar Street

Construction targeted to begin in 2021, 2022

MIT will expand west campus housing for graduate students beginning in 2021, adding 550 new beds and completing MIT’s 2017 pledge to add 950 beds to the housing system. The new building will be located between Simmons Hall and the MIT Police station, according to an announcement released by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88, and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01.

According to the graduate housing’s FAQ, the residence will be an apartment-style building meant to emulate living off-campus at an affordable on-campus location. The building is expected to be “a mix of unit types for single graduate students and graduate students with families.” 

Rates for the residence hall will be determined by the building’s condition as well as the rates charged for similar on- and off-campus housing options.

“We are currently envisioning that the residence will feature first floor community space and a mix of apartment-style units with kitchens. The apartments will range in size from efficiencies to one-, two-, and four- bedroom plans,” Senior Associate Dean for Housing and Residential Services David Friedrich and Vice President for Campus Services and Stewardship Joe Higgins wrote in a statement emailed to The Tech

The selection of these specifications was guided by the Graduate Student Housing Working Group’s 2018 report, which showed that “students value and prioritize proximity to campus and affordability more than building amenities such as fitness centers, lounges, and other types of common activity areas,” Friedrich and Higgins wrote. 

As stated in the FAQ and the announcement, MIT is partnering with a third-party developer for the project to allow MIT more financial flexibility to expedite the housing expansion process. The identity of this third party has not yet been released. Once an agreement is finalized, more details will be released to the community. 

The FAQ also states that the project team is working with the Parking and Transportation Office to determine the new location and to accommodate graduate students who park in the West Lot. The team is also working with the MIT Police to assess their space needs and to determine a new on-campus location for the police station.

Talks of expanding graduate housing originated in the Graduate Student Housing Working Group 2014 report. Surveys showed dissatisfaction in the graduate student community regarding cost of off-campus housing and lack of availability of on-campus housing. 

The report recommended “MIT build housing for 500-600 students to meet current unmet need” in “buildings that can accommodate a variety of housing types” rather than traditional dorm-style. It also suggested that these housing units be able to accommodate both married and unmarried students and families.

In 2017, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart charged the Graduate Student Housing Working Group to assess how housing needs had changed since the 2014 report. The working group found that “about 1,000 to 1,100 graduate students who currently live off-campus might prefer to live on-campus if additional housing became available,” according to Barnhart’s overview of the working group’s 2017 interim report. 

MIT then committed to a graduate student housing expansion plan of adding 950 new beds. The plan consisted of continuing to build the 450-unit graduate student residence hall in Kendall Square (which netted 250 new beds), building another residence hall with at least 500 beds, and applying for a permit to increase the number of permanent graduate beds by 200.

In their email to The Tech, Friedrich and Higgins wrote that “there are currently no new plans to build new graduate residences beyond the Site 4 Tower scheduled to open in August 2020 and the West Campus residence.” 

Several members of the Graduate Student Housing Working Group are currently serving on the Graduate Housing Implementation Team, which works to implement the recommendations of the working group.

Construction is expected to begin in 2021 or 2022.

Update 1/12/2020: This article was updated to correct that the new residence is not expected to be completed by 2022. Rather, construction is expected to begin in 2021 or 2022 and an estimated opening date has not been determined.