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MIT hands over Pacific Street park to city

It was a picture-perfect community scene. MIT staff and graduate students, Cambridge residents and their children, and Vice Mayor Henrietta Davis played soccer on a fine spring day, all wearing Pacific Street Park T-shirts supplied by MIT.

Two hundred people including Mayor Michael Sullivan attended the May 17 soccer games and party, which marked transfer of the deed for the Pacific Street Park (across Sidney Street from the new 70 Pacific St. graduate residence) from MIT to the City of Cambridge.

"The Pacific Street Park party was a fabulous community event that exceeded our expectations," said Sarah Gallop, co-director of the Office of Government and Community Relations. "Many of the people who negotiated the Cambridgeport rezoning with us over 10 years ago were there."

The transfer of approximately 1.5 acres of open space to the city is based on a unique 1992 rezoning arrangement. MIT agreed to donate and clean the land, which at the time was a parking lot, in exchange for the ability to use the development rights associated with the parcel. Those development rights were applied by MIT to 70 Pacific St., the new graduate residence, providing greater density rights on that site.

The soil under the old parking lot was heavily contaminated with lead from an old smelting plant and other contaminants that had been transferred with the soil as urban fill. MIT spent about $1 million on testing, excavating and disposing of the top four and a half feet, then brought in fresh soil and planted grass. The city put in sprinklers, a fence, and new sidewalks and curbs before the park opened in June 1995 as an "active park"--open space that can be used for sports.

Eleven years after the rezoning agreement, the park's deed was transferred to the city.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2003.

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