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Provost releases faculty task force report on Kendall Square

Supports MIT’s plan to file rezoning petition; offers recommendations for path forward
Kendall Square, present day
Kendall Square, present day

Today, MIT Provost Chris Kaiser released a report of an MIT faculty task force he charged with giving advice on MIT’s plans to develop property in Kendall Square. In the report, the members of the task force offer support for MIT’s plans to file a new rezoning petition with the City of Cambridge — and also give strong recommendations for how MIT’s efforts in Kendall Square should proceed in order to ensure the best possible outcome from MIT’s efforts.

The Task Force on Community Engagement in 2030 Planning was appointed by Kaiser in August. Its eight members were asked to provide two general pieces of guidance on upcoming decisions related to campus development within the capital planning process known as MIT 2030: advice regarding the development of MIT-owned property in Kendall Square, and advice around the most effective ways to engage the MIT community in the overall campus-planning process going forward.

The task force’s most immediate challenge was to advise the administration on whether MIT should move forward with submitting a rezoning petition. This would mark a significant step forward in MIT’s effort to imagine new possibilities for the property it owns in Kendall Square. That process began in 2010 with broad discussions within the MIT and Cambridge communities, and MIT filed its first rezoning petition in April 2011. MIT allowed that petition to lapse later that year because it determined that it would be beneficial to gain further input from a wide range of stakeholders before proceeding. (It is typical for proposed projects of this size to require more than one petition before approval.)

As leadership in the MIT administration considered ways to create an enhanced rezoning petition, it sought input from the MIT community, the city of Cambridge, and Cambridge residents. Kaiser’s formation of a faculty task force was intended to give MIT the benefit of Institute expertise in real estate, architecture and urban design.

“I am very grateful to the committee members for their hard work,” Kaiser said. “Their report reflects not only the knowledge and talent they bring to bear on their areas of expertise, but also their deeply informed consideration of the needs and aspirations of the MIT community. MIT will benefit not merely from the quality of this report, but from the ongoing contributions that members of this group and many others in the MIT community will make as we move forward.”

Should the city approve MIT’s petition, MIT will have a development “envelope” within which it can plan, design and construct a series of capital projects in Kendall Square expected to span 10 years. The petition requests rights to increase permitted density of commercial development in the target area while preserving existing capacity for future academic development.

"MIT’s plans for Kendall Square need the wisdom of our faculty,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “The report of the task force includes valuable insight, and I know that we will benefit greatly from it. An enlivened Kendall Square will be wonderful for all who enjoy it — whether members of the MIT community, Cambridge residents, or the many visitors who are attracted to this special place. I look forward to energetic community engagement on this exciting opportunity."

The task force’s report was summarized today by faculty chair Sam Allen in a regular meeting of the faculty. In an email to the faculty directly after the meeting, Kaiser said that he plans to review the report and to give it a response in the next week or two.

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