• An artist's rendering of the University Residential Communities, as seen from the north. The planned complex at 303 Third Street in Cambridge will represent a new housing alternative for members of the Institute community who want to stay involved in life at MIT after they retire.

    Image courtesy / Cetra / Ruddy

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A place to call home

New residences planned for those who can't get enough of MIT

Members of the Institute community who plan to stay involved in life at MIT after they retire have a new housing option, the University Residential Communities at MIT, located just blocks from the main campus.

Tunney Lee, senior lecturer and professor of city planning, emeritus, and Jack Dennis (S.B. 1953, S.M. 1954, Sc.D. 1958), professor of computer science and engineering, emeritus, are among 36 people who have already reserved units in the Kendall Square residence, known as URC.

Lee came to MIT in 1971 and retired in 1992. A specialist in urban planning for high-density settings, he taught in Hong Kong, then returned in 1999 to MIT, where he continues to teach two courses a year.

Lee says he wants to remain close to what he calls an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment, one that has yielded many strong bonds of friendship.

"MIT has been a supportive community for me," Lee says, explaining why he has signed on to URC. "The administration, my department, colleagues and students have become life-long friends."

For Dennis, being involved in research projects at MIT is the greatest source of satisfaction in his life, he says.

Living near MIT's main campus will offer the "possibility of following progress and contributing to advances in fields of interest to me: computer science, biology and neurophysiology, brain science, music and the arts," Dennis says.

Plans to develop URC began four years ago, when Paul Gray (S.B. 1954, S.M. 1955, Sc.D. 1960), MIT president, emeritus, Priscilla Gray and O. Robert Simha (M.C.P. 1957) met with two retired faculty of the Harvard School of Design to discuss the creation of housing near Harvard or MIT for faculty and staff.

The convener of the meeting, the late architect Paul Grayson, had long championed the idea of aging in place--living in residences that provided support services on an as-needed basis, with the goal of life-long satisfaction, as Gray explains it.

From this little meeting, a mighty search began. A group of nine Harvard and MIT people formed URC and, in the spring of 2006, focused on a development at 303 Third Street in Cambridge, a location within easy walking distance of MIT.

The URC building will contain 168 apartment-style units on eight floors and common rooms for conversations, performances and other gatherings on the first floor. There are also plans for a private dining facility at the street level on Third Street. URC will be fully ready for occupancy in December 2008.

Planned as a multigenerational residence with no age restrictions, URC is has accommodations for older residents including single-level apartments with wider doors and walk-in showers. The building will also house a pool, fitness center, an on-site medical exam room, a media room and underground parking.

Twenty-two of the residential units are reserved by the City of Cambridge for sale to those with incomes 60 to 120 percent of the Boston median income, or between $40,000 and $80,000 for a two-person family, notes Simha.

Except for the 22 Cambridge units, only those with affiliations to MIT, Harvard or Massachusetts General Hospital are eligible to reserve URC units.

MIT has no financial or other formal ties to URC. Residents will form a cooperative ownership structure after 50 percent of the units have been sold, according to Gray. At this time, about 25 percent have been reserved.

The construction and sales phases are overseen by three members of URC, all of whom will live in the building. Simha, former director of planning at MIT, serves as executive director. Gray is the nominal chair. The third member of the URC team is Neil Harper (Sc.D. 1959), former associate partner at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the architectural firm.

"My URC colleagues and I firmly believe that we are at the beginning of establishing a unique community that will provide a warm and stimulating environment and will serve the larger MIT community for generations," Simha says.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 17, 2007 (download PDF).

Topics: Alumni/ae, Cambridge, Boston and region, Campus services, Faculty, Staff


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