Executives of MIT and the MIT Investment Management Company executives presented a revised version of MIT’s vision for the future of the east campus to the Cambridge Planning Board on Tuesday night. Their recommendations incorporated many of the zoning changes proposed by the City’s Kendall-to-Central planning study (K2C2) earlier this year.
At the same meeting, the Planning Board also got its first look at the K2C2 recommendations for Central Square; see related article, p. 2.
MIT presented one major change from its April 2011 proposal, which has now expired: maximizing the residential density at its One Broadway extension to build 300 units of housing, up from 120 units. Whether that housing would be market-rate housing or graduate student housing was unspecified, but MIT says it would include a middle-income component consistent with the K2C2 Kendall recommendations. MIT will give a one-time $4.3 million contribution to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust.
MIT’s proposal continues to include commercial buildings on the parking lots south of E38, E39, and E48. A concern of the faculty 2030 committee has been that those buildings should be reserved for academic uses. “We know that’s academic space” said Thomas A. Kochan, chair of the task force. Kochan said that it was fine for MITIMCo to use that space commercially on a temporary basis, as long as it was eventually available for academic purposes.
MIT will include not only substantial ground-floor retail along Main Street, as previously proposed, but also along Broad Canal behind One Broadway.
MIT incorporated many changes from the K2C2 recommendations into its proposal. Those changes would end up applying to MIT without being incorporated into the proposal, assuming they pass the planning board and the City Council, though MIT’s zoning changes might be approved before the more general changes from the K2C2 recommendations.
The K2C2 zoning changes MIT incorporated are: restricting building size at higher heights, requiring buildings to meet LEED Gold community standards, contributing $10 per square foot to a community fund, including middle-income housing, and providing five percent of office space for startups.
MIT proposed dividing its area east of Ames Street into three zones, with three different height limits. On Main street, 250'; near Memorial Drive, 150'; and inbetween 250'. Currently all of those areas are restricted to 120'. MIT said that there was little chance of substantial change in many of those areas, because buildings like Gray House, the MIT President’s residence, were unlikely to change.
MIT’s presentation barely touched on the idea of a “grand gateway” to campus from the Kendall Square area. MITIMCo’s Steven C. Marsh did say that MIT had begun conversations with the MBTA on “reinvigorating” the T’s headhouse on the MIT side of Kendall Square.
Previous presentations had shown architectural renderings and concept drawings of such an entrance, but this time MIT did not show such images. MIT continues to try to determine how to produce an eastern entrance to campus without removing the historically significant buildings in the area: E38 and E39 (the MIT Press and Rebecca’s Cafe buildings).
All six members of the planning board in attendance appeared to look favorably upon MIT’s presentation, especially because of its inclusion of the K2C2 recommendations.
On Monday, eight members of the fifteen-member Faculty Newsletter Editorial Board, led by Professor Gordon A. Kaufman (Management) submitted a letter to MIT President L. Rafael Reif and Provost Chris A. Kaiser PhD ’87, copied to the planning board, protesting the MIT presentation: “further refinement of our collective thinking about MIT’s medium and longer term real estate development strategy should come before action… We interpret [this proposal] as an attempt to ‘end run’ student and faculty input and implement MITIMCo’s current version of how MIT’s Cambridge real estate should be developed.” (see sidebar at http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N59/kendall/ for full text).
But the Kaufman group’s concern was moderated the next day. On Tuesday mid-day, after meeting with members of the faculty 2030 task force, Kaufman wrote again to the President, Provost, and planning board, saying that it was “sensible to have MIT move forward with the proposal for up-zoning at tonight’s Planning Board meeting.” Kaufman declined to comment to The Tech, but directed attention to the forthcoming issue of the Faculty Newsletter.
At the planning board meeting, which was standing room only, MIT was represented not just by MITIMCo personnel, as has been the case previously, but by members of the senior administration. Associate Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88 presented a summary of the faculty task force on 2030 issues. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01 was in the audience.
Current and former faculty chairs Samuel M. Allen PhD ’75 and Thomas A. Kochan were also present. Both were on the faculty 2030 task force. Parts of MIT’s presentation were given by David P. Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi Architects.
A dozen Department of Urban Studies and Planning students were also present for a class assignment: attending a planning board meeting.