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MIT files new Kendall Square rezoning petition

Action will launch public review process in Cambridge, further collaborative thinking on campus.
Development along north and east sides of One Broadway with active ground floor uses will further energize the Broad Canal
Development along north and east sides of One Broadway with active ground floor uses will further energize the Broad Canal
Image: Elkus Manfredi Architects

Today, MIT formally submitted its rezoning petition for a 26-acre parcel of Institute-owned property in the Kendall Square area to the City of Cambridge. The petition is expected to be referred by the City Council to the Planning Board and the Council's Ordinance Committee, each of which is charged with reviewing zoning matters. Public hearings before each body will likely begin in early 2013.

Earlier petition/Kendall Square study

MIT had filed an earlier version of the petition in April 2011 and had engaged the MIT and Cambridge communities in extensive dialogue before allowing that rezoning effort to expire in October 2011; MIT determined that it would benefit from seeking more input about its proposal.

The City Council suggested at the time that a broad-based urban planning study be undertaken of the Kendall Square area in order to examine the complexities of its unique urban framework. This comprehensive process, dubbed K2C2, also reviewed the Central Square area and resulted in a series of recommendations related to dimensional features, housing, innovation space, sustainability and community benefits. MIT's new petition embraces the recommendations of the Kendall Square–related portion (known as K2) of this community-based study.

Steve Marsh, MIT's Managing Director of Real Estate, said about the K2 process: "Our petition has evolved and improved significantly as a result of the input received from such a broad spectrum of Kendall Square stakeholders. We're grateful to the City Council for its vision in establishing the effort, and to all those who engaged so thoughtfully around the future of Kendall Square."

Faculty Task Force

In response to questions and concerns raised by some members of the MIT faculty, MIT Provost Chris Kaiser established a task force in August 2012 to examine the Institute's redevelopment proposal for Kendall Square. The task force worked to understand the history and dynamics of Kendall Square, as well as the Institute's needs and aspirations in the East Campus area. The task force's report was made public by Kaiser in October.

In his response to the faculty task force recommendations, Kaiser wrote that, as recommended by the task force, the Institute would move forward with the zoning, implement a participative conceptual design process to examine the potential of the gateway area on Main Street, establish a comprehensive urban design plan for the remainder of the East Campus area, and carry out a study of MIT housing needs. The precise plans for each of these initiatives are in the process of being defined, but the efforts will be launched in 2013, with completion in 12-18 months.

In thanking the task force members for their careful work, Kaiser wrote: "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."

"Now that we have filed our petition," Kaiser added, "I look forward to working closely with the faculty and the greater MIT community on the work before us: the design concepts for a possible Main Street gateway, planning for East Campus, and studying our housing needs. Members of our community have and will continue to shape these efforts."

Cambridge Planning Board preview

At the Planning Board's request, MIT officials presented a preview of the Institute's rezoning petition on December 4. Planning Board members responded very positively to the evolution of the petition and proposal. The new petition embraces the dimensional framework recommended through the K2 process, increases the number of housing units from 120 to as many as 300 (with a mix of low, moderate, market-rate, and micro units), provides for innovation space, sets LEED Gold as a standard for all commercial buildings, and establishes a community fund for open space, transportation, and workforce training.

Going forward

"I'm pleased to see the petition moving ahead," said Faculty Task Force Chair and George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management Tom Kochan, previous chair of the MIT faculty. "I was particularly proud of the serious and thoughtful effort that was put forth by all members of the task force, and am eager to see the gateway design process, East Campus planning effort, and housing needs study get started." Serving with Kochan on the task force were: Current chair of the MIT faculty Samuel Allen, Xavier de Souza Briggs, Peter Fisher, Dennis Frenchman, Lorna Gibson, William Wheaton, and Patrick Winston, as well as Doug Pfeiffer, staff.

MIT's petition will be before the City Council for referral at its Dec. 17 meeting.

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