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Over the next three years, Vassar Street West will transform from a relatively nondescript urban byway to a grand boulevard, according to officials representing MIT and the City of Cambridge at the groundbreaking for the project on Oct. 17 at Simmons Hall.
The project marks a collaborative effort between MIT, city leaders and Richard Simmons (S.B. 1953), for whose family Simmons Hall is named.
"Despite the somewhat rainy weather, it is a beautiful day," said MIT President Susan Hockfield as she praised the "set of creative collaborations" that produced the plans for Vassar Street West.
The project represents an "ongoing and developing relationship between MIT and the city," she said. "This new Vassar Street will benefit both Cambridge and MIT. MIT is grateful to all those whose contributions will make a more beautiful and revitalized Vassar Street."
When the project is completed in the summer of 2009, bicycle tracks, spacious sidewalks, street trees and contemporary streetlights will line the road. The telephone lines that currently run along the athletic field across the street from Simmons will be buried--something of particular importance to Simmons.
Other planned enhancements include solar in-pavement lights, well-marked and well-lit crosswalks with curb extensions, and a speed table at the Simmons Hall crosswalk.
Simmons called his gift an "investment that improves the cohesiveness of the Institute."
Vassar Street East, which runs past the Stata Center, was completed in 2004, and when the west end is done, the entire length of Vassar Street will be completely rejuvenated.
"Vassar Street--both east and west--may become one of the architectural boulevards that people come from far and near to visit," said Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves. Reeves said he hopes to see more collaborations like it in the future.
Following brief talks from City Manager Robert Healy as well as the past and present presidents of Simmons Hall, eight representatives of Cambridge and MIT went outside to break ceremonial ground on the project.