MIT’s new plan for the future of the Kendall Square and the Institute’s eastern campus envisions an outdoor extension of the Infinite Corridor from E25 to E53, and a new open “riverwalk” from the Kendall’s Point Park along Wadsworth Street to the Charles River.
(Point Park is the triangular space between Broadway, Main Street, Wadsworth Street, and Third Street. It is dominated by Joe Davis’ 1989 sculpture: “Galaxy: Earth Sphere,” a fountain of water in the summer and steam in the winter.)
Steven C. Marsh of the MIT Investment Management Company presented MIT’s second attempt at a vision for future east-campus development at the Cambridge Planning Board meeting on Tuesday evening. It was not a zoning proposal and contained no concrete language about zoning changes, housing units, floor-area ratios, etc.; this information will come later, when MIT presents its actual petition, probably on June 18.
Marsh and MITIMCo first presented these development ideas to the planning board over a year ago, with a detailed zoning proposal that was not well-received. The city subsequently started its Kendall-to-Central planning initiative, and MIT allowed its petition to lapse while the city’s process went forward.
There were other items on the planning board agenda of interest to the MIT community as well.
Changes to Random’s block
The area of Massachusetts Avenue from Landsdowne St. to Blanche St., containing the MIT dormitory Random Hall, is owned by a combination of MIT and Forest City Enterprises, the developers of University Park.
Forest City announced plans in December of 2010 to build a five-story life sciences building at 300 Mass. Ave.,in the portion of the block north of Random, 298–334 Mass. Ave. They were back at the planning board with a revised proposal on Tuesday.
Responding to repeated concerns from Cambridge residents about the lack of housing, Forest City proposes building a residential tower on Sidney Street behind the firehouse, between Mass. Ave and Green Street. A small square of park at the Mass Ave/Sidney intersection would remain open, complementing the open space of Lafayette Square across the street.
Forest City’s zoning petition was originally filed in February 2011, and was allowed to expire in July 2011. The planning board and the city council have until August to act on the petition. At the meeting, staff of Cambridge’s Community Development Department spoke positively about Forest City’s proposal. City Councilor E. Denise Simmons was present, but offered no comment.
Peter Calkins, executive vice president at Forest City, did not respond to requests for the slides presented to the planning board.
Both Forest City’s 300 Mass. Ave. project and MIT’s Kendall re-envisioning are using David P. Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi architects. Manfredi is also the architect for 610 Main Street, the new building MIT is leasing to Pfizer that is midway between Kendall Square and 300 Mass Ave.
David Dixon, the city’s consultant running the Kendall-to-Central study, provided an update to the planning board after the Forest City petition. Dixon’s presentation was quite similar to other recent presentations he has made about the K2C2 status, including at a public meeting in April, as well as presentation to the Cambridge City Council. He describes buildings in Kendall reaching as high as 300 feet — currently, buildings in Kendall are substantially shorter — and a requirement that residential construction to complete before the entirety of commercial development can be finished.
MIT’s new vision for Kendall
Entitled “Reimagining Kendall Square,” Marsh’s presentation highlighted four separate areas of Kendall Square that MIT looks to change: Broad Canal Way, the area behind One Broadway; Point Park Riverwalk, a reimagining of Wadsworth Street; an Infinite Corridor extension, from E25 to E53 across what are currently parking lots; and the Main Street District.
Marsh is the managing director of real estate for MITIMCo. As of 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, he is MIT’s fifth-highest–paid employee and makes $730,000/year.
Marsh’s four areas represent geographically distinct portions of Kendall Square. On Main Street, MIT only owns the south side; the north side of Main is owned by Boston Properties. Marsh said MIT intended to retain the historical character of the south side of Main, so it would not change appreciably, though he hinted some buildings might shift and see extensive restoration.
While Marsh offered no specifics on housing, he indicated that the lot adjacent to One Broadway was now intended for a future residential tower, and not a research or lab building as previously envisioned in last year’s proposal. Planning board members, especially Steve Winter, were “very pleased to see that.” Marsh added that there might be some office space inside that residential building, to help accommodate innovation clusters.
The board seemed most impressed by the riverwalk proposal, linking Point Park to the river via Wadsworth Street. Marsh pointed out that Wadsworth was the only intersection on Memorial Drive with a traffic signal.
MIT’s detailed proposal should be released on the next month, and MIT is tentatitvely scheduled to present it to the planning board on June 19. Meanwhile, the City Council continues to grapple with the K2C2 consultant’s work. After a two-hour presentation last week when they only made it halfway through the materials, the council intends to schedule a half-day retreat later this month to go over the proposals.