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MIT Better World

The rejuvenated 1967 building, now boasting 21,000 square feet of bright new classrooms, offices, and workshops, has brought together everything to do with urban development and real estate under one roof. In the words of Eran Ben-Joseph, faculty head of DUSP: “We used to have a department that resembled urban sprawl, with groups scattered all around. Now we have one that finally feels like a downtown.”

A historic 2015 gift from alumnus and global real estate developer Samuel Tak Lee ’62, SM ’64, presented the Institute with an opportunity to refurbish the 1967 building’s outdated infrastructure and configuration. In addition to major overhauls to the HVAC system, windows, and accessibility, improvements include replacing dark classrooms with learning spaces filled with natural light, and common spaces, such as a west-facing counter with stools that students have dubbed the “sunset bar.” There’s also a new multimedia-enhanced open space called the City Arena, designed to facilitate interaction with participants in cities across the globe.

Lee’s gift also established within the building a lab bearing his name dedicated to socially responsible real estate entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on China. The Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab (STL Lab), in conjunction with CRE and DUSP, recently announced its second round of faculty research grants, awarding $1.1 million to nine MIT researchers and their teams. STL Lab grants are supporting such projects as Urban-Scale Social Responsibility in China: Behavioral Perspectives in Real Estate and Transportation, under principal investigator Jinhua Zhao MCP ’04, SM ’04, PhD ’09, the Edward H. and Joyce Linde Assistant Professor of City and Transportation Planning; and Rebuilding the Social Compact: Urban Service Delivery and Property Taxes in Pakistan, led by economics professor Benjamin Olken.