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Land Near Sidney-Pacific Will Be Developed for Residential Space

By Frank Dabek

STAFF REPORTER

In a reversal, a parcel of land near the Sidney-Pacific dormitory will be developed as residential space following a controversial attempt to build laboratory space on the site.

It appears that economic forces were the deciding factor in causing Forest City, the corporation in charge of developing the parcel at 100 Landsdowne Street, to revise their plans. David Finnegan, a spokesman for Forest City, said that the company could not find a tenant for the lab space and would develop the site as housing instead.

The parcel at 100 Landsdowne street is part of the larger University Park development built on MIT-owned land.

Forest City did not return requests for more detailed information about their plans for the site.

Roger Booth, Cambridge’s director of urban design, said that while Forest City “always had the right” to build a research and development facility on the site, the city “wanted to see more housing.” Booth said that Forest City had received a building permit and will build housing on the site.

Plans to develop the 100 Landsdowne Street parcel as biotechnology lab space were met with opposition from MIT student leaders and neighborhood activists, but were eventually approved by the city’s planning board in March of this year. The decision centered around whether Forest City had fulfilled its obligation to construct new housing under the city’s Interim Planning Overlay Permit process

Neighborhood pursues lawsuit

The Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods in protest filed a lawsuit to appeal the planning board ruling allowing the space to be used for laboratories.

John Moot, a member of ACN, said that his group is continuing to pursue the lawsuit against the planning board, Forest City, and MIT despite Forest City’s reversal. He said they were attempting to obtain a written guarantee that Forest City will build housing on the site and to recoup legal fees.

Moot said that the planning board’s March ruling allowing research and development at the site was “totally illegal in our opinion.” Moot also questioned Forest City’s commitment to building housing. Forest City said that there was “no market for housing. That was so outrageously wrong,” Moot said. “They’ve made false statements.”

Forest City’s decision may have also been influence by the approach of an Oct. 1 deadline. If Forest City had not begun development of the land by Oct. 1, MIT had the option to give development rights to another group.

Forest City is currently developing University Park under a long-term lease agreement with MIT, which owns the land.