Cambridgeport + MIT: Future Possibilities of Northwest Campus

This plan offers two alternative, long-range visions for managing future growth and development of the Northwest Campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located in the Cambridgeport neighborhood of Cambridge, MA. The work was commissioned by MIT’s Office of Campus Planning (OCP), and the project was conducted by a team of graduate students from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, as part of a practicum class on community growth and land use planning. The team was asked for to fulfill MIT’s programmatic needs in a bold and thoughtful manner that would serve MIT, their priorities for the neighborhood.

Armed with this background, and a suite of urban planning skills, they arrived at two alternative scenarios for future development. One, the Arts scenario, envisions MIT’s many cultural innovations “spilling” out of the west campus and into the Cambridgeport neighborhood. In this scenario, a pedestrian bridge allows access to MIT’s new theater building on Vassar Street, while performance spaces work with artistic and crafting makerspaces to enliven the neighborhood with MIT’s rich supply of creative performance and visual artists. Mixed-use buildings elsewhere provide the housing and office space MIT needs, while also activating the street and providing retail and dining amenities to nearby students and residents. The second scenario, Innovation, envisions using the neighborhood as a home for many of MIT’s current and future collaborative innovation projects. This vision features co-working spaces, makerspaces, and other buildings that encourage the cross-disciplinary collaboration for which MIT is justly famous. A gallery helps to make visible all the great work going on, while a community center allows for a more social type of collaboration between the MIT and residential communities.

This scenario also explicitly recommends that some of its housing allotment go towards affordable housing development, which is aligned with the priorities of the residential community and the city. What is common to both scenarios is the team’s overall goal for the future: a neighborhood that is livable, equitable, and accessible to all, which preserves the area’s rich history and identity while generating new vibrancy and interweaving the MIT and residential communities. Furthermore, the scenarios are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Rather, each highlights particular ways of enhancing the study area, while also addressing the needs and priorities of the South Cambridgeport neighborhood and MIT community.