City Council Greenlights Volpe Redevelopment

Cambridge City Hall
City Hall.
The Cambridge City Council voted Monday to approve a new MIT development that will include 280 affordable housing units near Kendall Square.

The proposal, presented at the Council’s Monday meeting, includes housing as well as commercial space, labs, and open plazas. According to information filed by the ordinance committee and planning boards, the redevelopment will including roughly 1,100 market rate housing units, 280 affordable housing units, and 950 new beds in graduate student housing.

The site will also include a community space with job search and training facilities, as well as community event planning and art installations. The overall goal of the project is “to create a dynamic mixed-use center in Kendall Square.”

MIT also has made a cash commitment of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to the city as part of the agreement, according to Councillor Leland Cheung.

Presented alongside the petition, the City Planning Board included a letter to the Council encouraging them to adopt zoning changes to accommodate the housing development. Board members who wrote in support of the redevelopment called the project a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Councillors said the agreement is the culmination of months of negotiations. They say it addresses the city’s affordable housing crisis, which many say can be tied to a need for more graduate student housing in Cambridge.

“We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if we didn’t work together,” Councillor Dennis J. Carlone said. “It’s been a very positive process.”

“I think there’s a lot to be proud of, that many people have spoken to,” Councillor Nadeem Mazen added.

Carlone did not vote in favor of the proposal, expressing concerns that MIT could use the redevelopment project to use the buildings for education after 10 years, which would exempt them from commercial use and taxes. Councillors asked MIT representatives if removing this language would be possible before voting, but the request was ultimately denied.

“That scares the heck out of me, from a fiscal point of view,” Carlone said.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included the increasing prevalence of helicopter noise over the city and how snow removal will be impacted by new traffic and bike infrastructure.

—Staff writer Nicholas W Sundberg can be reached at nicholas.sundberg@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickWSundberg.

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