City Council Discusses Community Benefits

The Cambridge City Council discussed a petition from Education First—a for-profit company that offers a range of programs centered around language learning and cultural exchange—that would expand its Cambridge offices.

Councillors at Monday night’s meeting made recommendations about the benefits Education First might bring to the community if it expanded.

The original petition submitted by the company to the city’s Planning Board expired Dec. 13 and was transferred to the City Manager’s office. The City Council first discussed the company’s petition at a meeting on Sept. 14.

Education First is seeking approval for its 300,000 square-foot office expansion project in the North Point region of Cambridge, according to City Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves.

Education First has committed $914,000 to Cambridge as part of mitigation for the changing of zoning ordinances its building project would require.

Richard McKinnon, an Education First representative, submitted a letter to the City Council and City Manager Robert W. Healy formally stating its commitment of the amount to the city. This money will be used for initiatives supporting the local community and will be allocated through a process determined by Healy, according to the letter. A portion of this mitigation money will be used to fund scholarships for Cambridge residents.

“In exchange for the right to build, we are putting together a mitigation package,” Reeves said. “The only people who should be left out should not be the people of Cambridge.”

Education First has agreed to pay $457,000, or half of the mitigation money, to the City Council within 90 days of being issued a building permit for their expansion project, according to the letter. The second half is expected to be paid to Cambridge upon receipt of a permanent or temporary certificate of occupancy for the project.

According to Reeves, however, the mitigation amount is still unsatisfactory. “Nobody got robbed here,” Reeves said. “But the citizens are not benefiting by any means.”

For other councillors, however, the promised package was sufficient.

Councillor and Chairman of the Ordinance Committee Sam Seidel said that he was excited about the jobs the expansion of Education First’s offices is going to bring to the city.

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker agreed.

“I am excited about the additional profits and EF’s potential expansion,” she said. “I feel comfortable, at this point, putting it in the manager’s office.”

Healy is expected to report back to the Council early in 2011.

—Staff writer Rediet T. Abebe can be reached at rtesfaye@college.harvard.edu.

Tags