Preliminary ideas and planning principles for revitalizing MIT-owned parcels in Kendall Square were presented to the Cambridge Planning Board on July 20, prompting members of the board to note that the concepts were welcome and a good starting point.
MIT informed the community in late spring that it is exploring a plan for its properties near the MBTA station and has spent the past two months meeting with members of the Institute community, as well as with Cambridge officials and representatives of the surrounding area, to discuss early concepts and solicit feedback.
Patios for outdoor dining, retail shops, a yoga studio, public art and interactive exhibits celebrating technological innovations: these are among the many ideas being put forth by members of the MIT and Cambridge communities as part of a dialogue around how to invigorate Kendall Square.
Led by the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo), a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that manages the investment of the Institute’s endowment and all investment real estate, the initiative is designed to complement the existing academic and research buildings affiliated with MIT in Kendall Square with a more dynamic social community.
Kendall Square is currently home to over 150 biotechnology and information technology firms, which include both global, market-leading firms and a growing number of technology start-up companies. There are currently few amenities to support either the academic or corporate communities or to encourage further collaboration.
“There has been no shortage of great ideas for how to create more vibrant spaces in Kendall Square,” said Steve Marsh, managing director for real estate for MITIMCo. “There is a universal agreement that by thinking creatively about the spaces on the ground floor of buildings, as well as sidewalks and other public spaces, we can make Kendall Square more attractive to those who study, live, work and visit here.”
Marsh and his team have met with MIT’s Academic Council and others within MIT, as well as with dozens of members of the Cambridge community (including individual City Councillors, City of Cambridge staff, neighborhood groups and business leaders). In its outreach, MIT is also meeting regularly with the Kendall Square Association (of which it is a founding member), which represents more than 100 local organizations eager to explore ways to create retail opportunities, amenities, cultural establishments and public spaces that improve the quality of life for the denizens of Kendall Square.
“Today, Kendall Square is one of the leading clusters of academics, entrepreneurship and leadership in the life sciences and technology space; but Kendall Square can’t be expected to succeed in the future without evolving,” said Marsh. “What we have heard is that there is a high level of interest in building on what makes Kendall Square great from 9 to 5 to create a real community that is both lively and maintains the region’s competitive edge.”
In addition to creating new spaces for retail establishments, the proposed development will support MIT’s role as an academic enterprise and research incubator, and will help attract new life-sciences, technology, energy and other entrepreneurial ventures to Kendall Square. Achieving these goals will likely require significant changes to the current zoning ordinance for the area, which MIT will seek later this year.
Though any project would be built out in phases, it is anticipated that near term benefits relating to construction jobs, as well as permanent jobs in retail, research and corporate environments, would result. In addition, the mix of uses would increase Cambridge’s commercial tax base.
In order to receive input from the wider Institute and Cambridge communities, MIT will host several public feedback sessions this fall, focusing on collecting ideas for ground floor retail and publicly accessible spaces in Kendall Square. The schedule for them will be announced in the coming weeks.
MITIMCo anticipates sharing a more formal proposal for potential uses in the fall.