Maureen McCaffrey: Managing Planning and Development of Capital Projects at MIT, and Leading CREW Boston

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Maureen McCaffrey

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Although Maureen McCaffrey manages planning and development of capital projects in MIT’s Cambridge commercial real estate portfolio, don’t get surprised if you hear her “break into song” with the slightest trigger of a word or phrase.

“One out of every hundred people find it amusing! Keeping with the music theme, I do like to write – lyrics, poems – and have regularly tormented friends with my rhyming skills,” says Ms. McCaffrey, who also serves as President of CREW Boston

Ms. McCaffrey adds that supporting the Kendall Square community has been central to her work and gives her a tremendous sense of purpose.

Ms. McCaffrey will be honored as the Outstanding Women of Commercial Real Estate 2024 by the Boston Real Estate Times on Feb. 22, 2024 at its Annual Awards gala at the Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA. To register for the gala, please click here.

“From fostering the life science, tech and retail start up communities to creating the MIT Job Connector to hosting fantastic family events at the Kendall Square Open Space, MIT’s deep connection to the local community is felt in many places,” says Ms. McCaffrey. “I am humbled and proud to be part of such an impactful organization.”

A Director at MIT Investment Management Company, Ms. McCaffrey manages planning and development of capital projects in MIT’s Cambridge commercial real estate portfolio, including zoning initiatives, renovations, tenant-fitups, and ground up developments with a focus on stewardship of sustainability initiatives.

She has permitted and constructed over 2 million square feet of commercial life sciences development in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA for a wide range of tenants from international pharma/research to local start-up co-working labs.

Moreover, Ms. McCaffrey is committed to advancing women in real estate and the next generation of women in STEM fields. She is a Professional Engineer, licensed in Massachusetts, and is a LEED Accredited Professional. She is CREW Boston President and a member of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Board of Trustees.

MIT Investment Management Company’s mission is to provide stewardship of MIT’s financial resources. The stewardship of these resources includes, among other things, the investment of endowment and operating assets in various asset classes such as commercial real estate. The MITIMCo commercial real estate team supports the mission by creating inspiring and inclusive spaces for all to enjoy.

One of MITIMCo’s most recently completed projects is 238 Main Street. The project features a stunning, cantilevered 300,000 square foot 12-story commercial lab and office building connected to the historic 5-story Kendall Building. Rising from a 5-story podium, the upper six floors dramatically rotate 90 degrees and frame a new 2-acre open space. Separating the two masses on the sixth floor is a recessed outdoor terrace and amenity space overlooking the new open space with views of the Charles River, the Back Bay and downtown Boston. Dense vertical fins help shade the glass façade and balance the scale of the simple double masses. The staggered placement of the fins, inspired by a Fibonacci mathematical sequence, animate the building. The density of the fins varies and relates to the solar exposure and the shadows of neighboring buildings.

The existing historic façade is maintained to balance the simplicity and modern language of the addition and maintains the pedestrian scale of Kendall Square. Ground floor retail activates each side of the building to further engage pedestrians on Main Street and draw visitors to the new public space.

Adjacent to this building will be 200 Main Street, a 300,000 square foot 13-story commercial lab and office building with ground floor active retail space and a below-grade parking garage currently under construction. The bold massing of the building – with its lower and upper volumes set at 90 degrees from one another – will complement the ensemble of buildings MIT has completed in our Kendall Square development.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. McCaffrey:

Boston Real Estate Times: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Maureen McCaffrey: I love the big milestones like the completion of a project that has been a dozen years in the making. I also appreciate the everyday joys of solving a complex problem (one step at a time and/or in leaps and bounds) with the team and seeing a well-planned operation executed safely. Additionally, it’s always a treat to see someone achieve something that makes them proud and for which you can celebrate them.

BRET: What do success and failure mean to you?

MM: Success to me is when I look back at the work I have been a part of and that we have accomplished – from small to multi-year projects – and I can say we delivered on our promise. My goal is to be able to say I and we did everything we could and worked with everyone to arrive at the best outcome, and when challenges arose, as they always do, we addressed them as a team and in the best interests of the development and its stakeholders.

BRET: What is the one thing you attribute your success to?

MM: People – Everyone in our lives influences how we feel about ourselves and the confidence they build in each of us is foundational to everything we can achieve. I am especially grateful to my parents who gave me a strong work ethic and appreciation for education. I also appreciate the people who have mentored me and the people I work with – from those new to the industry to the experts. I am equally fortunate to have my dear friends who have been cheerleaders and coaches and who keep me grounded.

BRET: To which charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

MM: CREW Boston has afforded me greater confidence and a tremendous network of extraordinary

women. I’ve spoken numerous times that I was a late bloomer in the industry and in the networking world in general. CREW accelerated my network! Of course, I’ve loved being part of NAIOP and other industry related activities like the United Way Real Estate and Building Industry Leadership Breakfast, an energetic industry fundraising group working to end homelessness.

My charitable interests have been primarily focused on STEM education. CitySprouts is a garden-based experiential learning non-profit education program in about 20 Cambridge and Boston schools. I served on the board several years and a term as president. I’m a trustee at my alma mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where I also co-founded the Women’s Impact Network, a women-led philanthropic organization committed to the continuous advancement of women in STEM across WPI’s local and global community. We have funded over $1M to date including programs dedicated to growing the pipeline of girls and underrepresented students into STEM education. I have met the most extraordinary people at WPI and love how that world overlaps with my work at MIT.

BRET: In what way do you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community, your company/organization or professional field?

MM: MIT’s focus on creating place in Kendall Square and supporting the community has been central to my work and gives me a tremendous sense of purpose. From fostering the life science, tech and retail start up communities to creating the MIT Job Connector to hosting fantastic family events at the Kendall Square Open Space, MIT’s deep connection to the local community is felt in many places. I am humbled and proud to be part of such an impactful organization.

BRET: Is there any aptitude, gift or talent that not many people know about you?

MM: I’m not sure it’s a talent but I have mad “break into song” skills with the slightest trigger of a word or phrase. One out of every hundred people find it amusing! Keeping with the music theme, I do like to write – lyrics, poems – and have regularly tormented friends with my rhyming skills.

BRET: What are your hobbies and interests?

MM: I spend my free time cycling, gardening, on home projects, endless walks, and with family and friends. I have the best crew!

BRET: Your favorite books?

MM: There are so many books I treasure and that have had an impact on my life… But the Harry

Potter series is dear to me because of the time in my life I got to experience them. Another personally important book is Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal”. Just weeks after my mother and I had both read it, my dad became ill. The book gave us an ability to communicate and have important conversations that we would not have otherwise had during the very few weeks we had left with him. I am forever grateful.

BRET: Your favorite quotes?

MM: Like most of us, I’m inspired by so many quotes but the one that I’ve always remembered is the

quote my mother put in my high school yearbook (where she also happened to work): “In the race to be better or best, forget not the joy of being.”

BRET: The one person you would like to meet and why?

MM: I would have loved to have had the chance to meet Ruth Bader Ginsberg. What a fascinating person she was – intelligent, accomplished, ground-breaking. I bet she was a hot ticket and full of amazing and funny stories.

BRET: Your core values you try to live by?

MM: Value learning as much as doing. It’s more than just being curious. It’s important to really be open to looking at things a different way. I have had to be reminded of this on many occasions.

BRET: What inspires you?

MM: I draw inspiration from many different sources. My 8-year-old nephew is among the smartest and most creative people I know. He inspires me with his tremendous building and problem-solving skills. Other examples range from my friend Laurie Leshin, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to local legends Rick and Dick Hoyt to Thomas Keller’s balance of precision and passion in his cooking classes. I find inspiration in my mother, the students I’ve interacted with, in art, music, athletes and many other places. I believe the world is filled with inspiring people.

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