$118M Gift Funds MIT Real Estate Lab


A China-focused real estate entrepreneurship lab that promotes social responsibility will arise at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from a $118 million gift by a Hong Kong developer.

MIT announced the gift from former student Samuel Tak Lee on Thursday (Jan. 8). It is one of the largest donations in the school’s history.

The new lab will promote social responsibility among entrepreneurs and academics in the real-estate profession worldwide, with a particular focus on China, according to the Cambridge, MA-based Institute.

The lab's work will include:

  • Development and urbanization through private action and entrepreneurship;
  • Urban resilience and adaptation;
  • Land-use reform regulations and codes;
  • New construction materials;
  • Data and technology;
  • Affordable housing; and
  • Environmental aspects of urban growth and development.

The gift will also fund fellowships to attract both U.S. and international students and will make the lab’s curriculum available online to learners worldwide via MITx.

Inspired Giving

In a statement, Lee explained that his gift had been motivated by a desire to design a program with MIT that tightly ties the study of real estate to 21st-century realities such as land reform, environmental challenges, burgeoning populations, and an evolving global economy.

“This is a period of tremendous change and opportunity for entrepreneurs in China and around the world,” Lee said.

Hong Kong
© iStock.com / SeanPavonePhoto

Lee's gift was inspired by the desire to design a program with MIT that ties the study of real estate to 21st-century realities such as land reform, environmental challenges, burgeoning populations, and an evolving global economy.

“By cultivating a long-term perspective, real estate professionals can create even greater value for themselves and for society based on responsible, sustainable strategies. I am eager to connect ambitious, talented students with the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed.”

Lee earned two degrees from MIT: a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a master’s in 1964. Both were in civil and environmental engineering. Following his studies, Lee joined Prudential Enterprise, a company founded by his father and cousin, according to Forbes.

Lee ranks No.19 on the Forbes’ list of Hong Kong’s 25 richest people, worth $2.9 billion.

In recognition of Lee’s substantial and ongoing commitment to the Institute, Building 9, home to the MIT Center for Real Estate, will be named the "Samuel Tak Lee Building."

Shaping the Built Environment

“With this gift, Sam Lee aims to tap the transformative power of real estate to shape the built environment, and thereby to shape society and culture, to enrich our shared civic life, to increase our harmony with nature—in short, to make a significant positive impact on the world,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

“The issues that create complexity in Chinese real estate, such as migration, land ownership, and environmental impacts, make it a fertile area for research and practice,” added Eran Ben-Joseph, professor and head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

“Lessons learned from China can serve as models worldwide.”


Tagged categories: China; Commercial Construction; Designers; Developers; Good Technical Practice; North America; Research; Technology; Urban Planning

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