MIT’s Architectural Makeover

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on October 14, 2010 · 0 comments

in Campus Culture

The new Sloan School building opened in September.

The new Sloan School building opened in September.

The New York Times apparently didn’t think much of the MIT campus before the equivalent of our own Big Dig. The Oct. 13 Square Feet column dissed the Institute’s historic assemblage of converted factories and “bunker-like buildings,” ignoring the post World War II building surge that produced Kresge Auditorium, the MIT Chapel, Baker House, and other notable works by renowned architects.

But times have changed. In the past 10 years MIT has added 10 major buildings at a cost of $1.4 billion—and that, the article notes, has changed the landscape in more than one way. The built spaces are, by and large, dazzling and they encourage a new level of collaboration among faculty and students. See the slide show.

The article also points out how MIT has used its commercial real estate portfolio—totaling about six million square feet—to support the ambitious building projects and to cultivate the neighborhood, particularly by making it suitable for industry partners. In the past few years, Novartis, Microsoft, Google, and others have moved to Kendall Square; the intersection of Main and Vassar Streets has become a global hub of the biotechnology industry. And, in fact, as MIT has renovated and improved properties, it has sold a few—but never the land beneath them. That’s thinking very, very long term.

A new round of investment is brewing. MIT has won Cambridge approval of a sizable build-to-suit structure on Main Street and discussion is ongoing about how to improve Kendall Square, particularly the area around the T stop, to make it an inviting place for people to converge.

N.B. If you are interested in commercial real estate in the larger view, you might want to check out the MIT Center for Real Estate‘s own national Commercial Property Price Index. Or see what may be ahead for the housing market in MIT/CRE Professor William Wheaton’s recent proposal reported in a Fortune article and elsewhere.

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