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Provost Chris Kaiser updates faculty on Kendall Square

MIT to file rezoning petition; eastern gateway to the campus to be imagined collaboratively.

MIT Provost Chris Kaiser emailed the MIT faculty today about MIT's proposal around the development of Institute-owned property in Kendall square: his email, reproduced below, follows one he sent to the faculty last month about his release of the report of a faculty task force appointed to advise MIT on the Institute's approach to Kendall Square.

To Members of the Faculty:

I am writing to follow up on my earlier communication regarding the report of the Faculty Task Force and its recommendations related to MIT's proposal to redevelop Institute property in the East Campus/Kendall Square area.

Since the report was issued, I have had the opportunity to review the findings with President Reif and to convene several discussions with Task Force members, MIT staff, and on one occasion, members of the City administration and the City's planning staff. These conversations have been tremendously helpful and productive, and have led us to an aligned approach in terms of carrying out MIT's — and the City's — desire to enliven the Kendall Square area.

One of the key findings of the Task Force is that a new eastern gateway to the campus in Kendall Square must be "worthy of MIT and its aspirations, mission, and standards of design excellence" and "welcoming to residents and visitors." The Task Force raised concerns related to the Cambridge Historical Commission's designation of eligibility for landmark status of three MIT-owned buildings on Main Street located next to the potential gateway area. The report notes the possibility that preserving the three buildings may limit the opportunity to create a "physically prominent node of activity." This topic was the principal subject of our recent discussions for which we have now developed a path forward.

With the full support of the Task Force, MIT will proceed with a two-step process to advance the Kendall Square Initiative. First, the Institute will file its rezoning petition as soon as possible. In acknowledgement of the designation of eligibility for landmark status by the Historical Commission, the petition will retain all three historically significant buildings on Main Street (238, 264, and 292 Main Street). During the zoning process, MIT will present conceptual plans for the area that incorporate and complement the historical structures.

Second, as recommended by the Task Force, MIT will launch a participative conceptual design process to examine the potential of the gateway area. This effort, which is in the process of being defined, will try to imagine a gateway that will connect MIT to the Kendall Square area in an innovative and inspirational manner. In order to maximize flexibility and creativity, options with and without the historic buildings will be considered, although 238 Main Street will always remain intact. This more detailed, creative design effort will start during the zoning process and continue after the zoning outcome is determined. Pending zoning approval, final design review would be subject to the City's historic landmark review process and conducted through the City's "Article 19 Special Permit" process.

I believe that this approach respects the interests and ambitions of both our institutional and City colleagues and offers the greatest likelihood of success in the long run.
There are several other report findings and recommendations that I will pursue further with the Task Force, such as the establishment of a comprehensive urban design plan for the remainder of the East Campus or the study of MIT housing needs as part of the MIT 2030 process. I look forward to continued dialogue with the Task Force members, particularly as they take up the second subject of their charge related to engaging the MIT community in the MIT 2030 planning framework and process.

I would again like to express my appreciation and thanks to Task Force members Tom Kochan, Samuel Allen, Xavier de Souza Briggs, Peter Fisher, Dennis Frenchman, Lorna Gibson, William Wheaton, and Patrick Winston, as well as Doug Pfeiffer, staff to the Task Force, for their focused and creative work on these topics. Their service and commitment will allow the Institute to move forward in collaboration with its Cambridge colleagues and neighbors on behalf of our collective aspirations for the East Campus/Kendall Square area.

Chris Kaiser

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