Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 13, 2014

MBTA Role in Cambridge Center Project – Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989

MBTA Role in Jump-starting Development of the Cambridge Center Project
Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project, 1979-1989

By Thad Tercyak, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, Associate Director, 1968-1990

The purpose of this narrative is to provide additional information about the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s (CRA) Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project and to describe the role of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) in helping to jump-start development of the CRA’s Cambridge Center Project in 1979-1989, a major factor in helping to attract high-tech companies to locate in the East Cambridge industrial area. UMTA provided the MBTA with critical financial assistance made available under President Carter’s Urban Initiatives Program.

Kendall Urban Initiatives Project 1980
KENDALL SQUARE URBAN RENEWAL PROJECT
Urban Initiatives Project – 1980

To understand the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, it must be divided into two phases:

Phase 1. 1963-1979. The objective was to transform a 43-acre blighted urban industrial area into vacant land for construction of improvements.
Background. The Kendall Square Urban Redevelopment Project planning activities during Phase 1 included creating, initiating and financing the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project; preparing an urban renewal plan to accommodate development by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and, after NASA withdrew from the Project, preparing an entirely new plan for development by private developers; a painful, prolonged and laborious process because Cambridge was unprepared to carry out the difficult and complicated tasks involved in overhauling the original plan with an entirely new plan.

In 1965, when the City of Cambridge approved the CRA’s original Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, it anticipated that the Project would attract NASA-related private development to replace a blighted industrial area of old, deteriorated and underutilized buildings with a modern, attractive industrial area which would generate tax revenues and jobs. In 1970, when NASA withdrew from the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project and transferred its interests in the Kendall Square Project to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the feeling in Cambridge was that the project had been delivered a tremendous setback because it lost its major developer; a severe blow to the city’s efforts to expand its economic base.

The 1970-77 period involved two major activities:
(1) The execution of land preparation activities in order to transform a 43-acre industrial slum into vacant land for new construction. The activities required the acquisition of 70 parcels of land, relocation of the Broad Canal to an underground water system, relocation of nearly 100 businesses, demolition of 50 buildings, construction of infrastructure, and formation of new traffic patterns of circulation. Land preparation activities are the "nitty-gritty, heavy-lifting" period of the redevelopment process because most are messy, noisy, a public nuisance and a favorite subject of complaint.

(2) The resolution of planning issues in order to amend the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan to designate new reuses for the land. Activities included negotiations between the CRA, DOT, and the U.S. General Services Administration to retrieve the rights to develop 10 acres of vacant land left behind by NASA; and rejection by the Cambridge City Council of four redevelopment plans prepared by a task force comprised of representatives from a cross section of Cambridge organizations working with the CRA.

In 1976, the CRA engaged the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) advisory panel services to review the Kendall Square Project and propose ways to help break the multi-year planning deadlock. Among the "Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations" of the ULI panel:

• Only a few properties in the country have a broader array of locational advantages as the Kendall Square area and the opportunities associated with the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Cambridge Center is a unique opportunity area, one that should be reserved to maximize its locational advantages.

The MBTA’s Kendall Station subway is one of the more spectacular assets affecting the redevelopment potential of the CRA’s Cambridge Center project (emphasis added).

• Attracting developers will not be easy. Citizen concerns, political pressure, economic uncertainty, the absence of a united and strong development process, high taxes, environmental constraints, contentious political climate, and congested surface transportation have combined to create a credibility problem with the real estate development community relative to the City of Cambridge. With few exceptions, the lack of credibility has been a severe restraint to real estate development in Cambridge.

These development problems are such that all but the most determined developer, the one who perceives a very close relationship between locational advantages and development opportunities, will be deterred from coming into the community (emphasis added).

Engaging the ULI greatly helped to break the planning deadlock because the panel’s expertise gained the confidence of the Cambridge City Council and the CRA. The panel advised the CRA to make extraordinary efforts to impress potential developers by efficiently completing site preparations and all major pre-physical development activities. The CRA responded by removing legal and technical impediments to development by completing an Environmental Impact Statement; securing plan and zoning amendments; carrying out a $7-million public improvements program; and implementing traffic circulation plans, such as widening Binney Street to provide direct major access to Memorial Drive.

In 1977, Cambridge City Council approved a mixed-use development plan for the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project. For marketing purposes the name Cambridge Center was adopted to refer to the 24 acres in the Kendall Square Project Area separate from the land occupied by DOT. In 1978, the CRA invited proposals to develop Cambridge Center, and in 1979, selected Boston Properties as the initial developer.

Phase 2. 1980-Present. The objective was to sell the vacant land created during Phase 1 for private development.
The CRA and Boston Properties executed a Development Agreement which provided that the CRA would sell land to Boston Properties in stages after approval of development plans; and Boston Properties was required to start construction of an office building within seven months of signing the agreement.

Because of the disorderly events of the 1970’s, expectations regarding development of the CRA’s Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project were gloomy. Mortimer Zuckerman, one of the two Boston Properties principals, was aware of the difficulties: "It was a very bleak time when the Kennedy Space Center moved to Texas…There was just a lot of land there" (Woolhouse, "Making a High Tech Mecca", Boston Globe, June 26, 2011)".

The CRA realized that to overcome Cambridge’s credibility problem with the real estate community, it had to establish a reputation for being able to work efficiently and effectively with Boston Properties in stimulating private development of the Cambridge Center Project. The MBTA was about to provide the CRA with the opportunity to establish that reputation.

The MBTA operated three facilities in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project area: the Kendall subway station (Kendall Station), bus layover facilities, and a traction power substation. The Kendall Station was old (built in 1912), dilapidated, obsolete, with dimly lighted platforms. The traction power substation was considered to be obsolete and a blighting influence, and its 50′ high fire-damaged brick facade dominated the heavily travelled Main Street eastern entrance to the Kendall Square area.

The MBTA recognized that because of the improvements designated for the CRA’s Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, the MBTA facilities would have to be modernized. During the mid-1970’s, the MBTA and the CRA staffs met to coordinate plans regarding future reconstruction efforts. It was decided that reconstruction would be integrated with the CRA’s redevelopment activities, and the CRA’s Concept Design Plan for the Kendall Square Project would be used as the standard for urban design amenities.

By coincidence, Jimmy Carter was the U.S President from 1977 to 1981, and his Urban Policy plans included shifting the allocation of federal resources to favor urban areas. Priority was to be given to projects that leveraged the expenditure of federal funds and strong incentives would be awarded to projects engaged in efforts to attract private investments to urban areas. The effort would be called the President’s Urban Initiatives Program.

Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project
The MBTA determined that its Kendall Station met the qualifications to receive designation as a Urban Initiatives Project because it was already integrating its plans for modernizing the Kendall Station with the CRA’s plans for the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, and that the CRA had executed a Development Agreement with Boston Properties to attract private development and investments to the Cambridge Center Project. In its application to UMTA for project approval, the MBTA made the following points:

"The project’s financial assistance will be used to provide Kendall Station improvements in support of a major urban redevelopment effort and to stimulate private investments for urban improvements… The CRA has designated Boston Properties as developer for Cambridge Center and Boston Properties is expected to generate $150 million of private investment over the next 10 years and produce in excess of one-million square feet of office, hotel, retail, and open space. More immediately, Boston Properties is prepared to begin construction in October, 1979, of the first office building (13 stories) involving 250,000 square feet of space and costing approximately $20 million. This initial investment could be followed the next year with a second building of the same magnitude".

UMTA designated the Kendall Station project as an Urban Initiatives Project, agreeing that "the proposal has excellent characteristics for effectively achieving the President’s intentions in calling for an UMTA Urban Initiatives Program". The Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project involved the CRA, the MBTA, and Boston Properties. It included Parcel 4 of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, a triangular 5-acre site bordered by Main Street, Broadway and Sixth Street around the Kendall Station.

Initially, because of budgetary constraints, the MBTA programmed construction of the Kendall Station improvements for the late-1980’s and called for only a modest renovation of the existing facilities and entrances; and the program for the traction power substation provided only for replacement of electrical equipment, with no provision for replacing and relocating the building. This schedule was of grave concern to the CRA because the Kendall Station, in its present antiquated condition, would have an adverse effect on the initial marketing efforts by Boston Properties to attract private development to the area.

At that time, Boston Properties marketing efforts highlighted the locational advantages of the Kendall Station: (1) The MIT campus was in the immediate neighborhood. (2) Two subway stops easterly from the Kendall Station was downtown Boston, and two subway stops westerly was Harvard University. (3) The MBTA public transit system provided access to virtually the entire Boston Metropolitan Area. (4) The Kendall Station was within easy walking distance of any location within the Cambridge Center Project area. The CRA believed that an efficient and timely transformation of the Kendall Station from old, dilapidated and obsolete to a modern, attractive, and well-designed subway station, and the simultaneous construction of buildings by Boston Properties and public improvements by the CRA could have a dramatic positive effect on Boston Properties’ marketing efforts. Also it could stimulate private development of the vacant land in the rest of Cambridge Center; and might influence the real estate community’s perception of Cambridge’s credibility.

The CRA requested (1) the MBTA reschedule construction of the Kendall Station to start during the early 1980’s, and the proposed station improvements be upgraded to match the CRA’s design standards; and (2) the traction power substation be replaced and relocated so that it could be subsumed within the private development occurring on-site. The MBTA was supportive, but because the MBTA system had operated at a loss during the past five years, it had determined that "no part of the costs associated with the Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project can be financed from MBTA revenue".

Designation of the Kendall Station modernization plans as an UMTA Urban Initiatives Project also qualified the MBTA for the maximum amount of Federal assistance, making it eligible to receive funding from UMTA. Accordingly, UMTA provided the critical financing the MBTA needed to reschedule construction of the Kendall Station to begin sooner, upgrade design standards, and relocate the new traction power substation.

Then a rare event took place in the City of Cambridge. Two public agencies – the CRA and the MBTA – and a private developer – Boston Properties – initiated meetings to discuss the funding, design and construction details of the Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project. They entered into a variety of formal and informal arrangements to cooperate in the planning and development around the Kendall Station. Their arrangements extended from land use planning and urban design to land acquisition and transfer policies, construction activities, and the maintenance of public and private improvements. For example:

• The Kendall Station modernization would include lengthening the subway platforms from four cars to six cars, relocating the stations entrances, and upgrading the stations interiors.

• The MBTA’s new traction power substation would be integrated with the improvements planned by the CRA and Boston Properties.

• The CRA’s design standards for the renewal area would be used to plan project improvements related to the Kendall Station reconstruction.

• The CRA was awarded a $5.1-million grant to provide transit-related improvements and urban design amenities, including street and sidewalk improvements, a bus contraflow lane, a Transit Plaza, an urban park at the gateway to the project, and pedestrian connections to nearby neighborhoods.

Urban Initiatives Project Area - 1980

Construction Coordination
A particularly difficult task was the coordination of simultaneous construction activities by the three entities in performing over- lapping construction work within tight, limited areas where the lines of responsibilities were difficult to draw. The parties devised a cost-sharing formula to determine how much of the total cost would be the responsibility of each party if the entire job was performed by a single contractor. A contractor would then be engaged and each party would pay its agreed-upon share of the total contractor cost. For example:

• The MBTA dug a huge excavation across Main Street and abutting vacant land. The excavation was for the expansion and renovation of the Kendall Station (to be constructed by the MBTA); and for an area to provide services to the buildings on Parcel 4 (to be built by Boston Properties). The building service area was to be located under a Transit Plaza (to be built by the CRA) so that it would be out-of-sight.

• The new northerly entrance to the subway (to be built by the MBTA) would abut the Transit Plaza (to be built by the CRA) and include an extended canopy from the wall of an office building (to be built by Boston Properties). The canopy would provide the MBTA patrons with a covered walkway and direct access to a food court (to be built by Boston Properties).

• The three parties collaborated on the location and design of the new traction power substation (to be built by the MBTA) so that a 12-story office building (to be built by Boston Properties) could be constructed on air rights over it.

• As construction was completed by the MBTA and Boston Properties, the CRA was to construct public improvements in the abutting public ways.

The redevelopment of Parcel 4 was a team effort by the CRA, the MBTA, and Boston Properties. The renovations by the MBTA in modernizing the Kendall Station, and by the CRA in constructing public improvements and urban design amenities, created an environment to reinforce Boston Properties’ marketing efforts to attract highly-qualified companies to locate in the Cambridge Center Project.

Kendall Station - Urban Initiatives Project - 1985
KENDALL STATION
Urban Initiatives Project – 1985

Urban Initiatives Project Area - 1985
Urban Initiatives Project Area – 1985
Construction Coordination

Urban Initiatives Project Area - 1989
Urban Initiatives Project Area – 1989

Transit Plaza contributions
The Transit Plaza, named Nowiszewski Plaza, abutted the Kendall Station’s exit/access, and was surrounded by active uses. It included a multicolored paving pattern, and a 75-foot sculptured tower, which also served as an emergency exit for the hotel, ventilation for the building service area under the Plaza, and amphitheater seating. Boston Properties funded the tower and the gold-leaf octahedron adorning its top, and was obliged to operate, maintain, and repair the Transit Plaza.

(NOTE: The Transit Plaza was subsequently modified.)

Urban Initiatives Project - 1989
Urban Initiatives Project – 1989

Pedestrian Circulation
Efforts were made to facilitate pedestrian circulation and activities: 5 Cambridge Center contained Legal Seafood restaurant; 3 Cambridge Center had a food court and MIT Coop store; and 2 Cambridge Center, a hotel abutting the Transit Plaza, had a restaurant, bar, and a public easement through the hotel lobby connecting to a pedestrian way to the surrounding area. The Transit Plaza provided exit/access for the subway, outdoor use of tables and chairs, amphitheater seating, and occasional entertainment programs, fairs and informal performances by free-lancers. Directly east of 1 Cambridge Center was an urban park, "Galaxy at Murphy Park". Also, Boston Properties constructed an elevator-accessible 1-acre public park on the roof of a parking garage. (Note: The garage roof was subsequently modified.)

"Galaxy at Murphy Park"
The eastern gateway to the Kendall Square area at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway, was a triangular site used to construct "Galaxy at Murphy Park". Galaxy was conceived through the successful collaborative efforts of the CRA and the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

The CRA considered Galaxy to be one of the most attractive features of Cambridge Center.

The centerpiece of Galaxy was an environmental structure which featured a 5-foot-in-diameter "earthsphere" placed in a fountain. Water spray – during the warm months – , or steam – during the cold months – enveloped the sphere to create the appearance of "floating" on clouds. Surrounding the fountain were 12" moon-globes which were perforated in individual patterns. At nighttime, the globes were illuminated from within and its shadows cast light and patterns on the pavement around the globes; and when steam from the earthsphere passed over the globes, rays of light were visible coming through the perforations. Surrounding the fountain were benches for sitting; two rows of trees and shrubs; and grassy open spaces.

Boston Properties was responsible for operating, maintaining and repairing "Galaxy".

Urban Initiatives Project 1989
Urban Initiatives Project 1989

Urban Initiatives Project 1989

National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO)
In 1990, NAHRO’s Annual Agency Awards of Excellence in Housing and Community Development chose the Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project for its Administrative Innovation Award. "The Kendall Square Project showed excellent coordination of public and private funding, as well as excellent planning and team work by three major agencies over the 10-year development period. A joint development carried out among two public agencies, the CRA and the MBTA, and a private developer, Boston Properties".

Summary
Although the project was complex, the objectives of the Kendall Station Urban Initiatives Project were achieved:

• The MBTA modernized and expanded the Kendall Station by relocating station entrances, lengthening the station platforms, and renovating the station’s interiors; and constructed a new traction power substation to replace the old, outmoded one.

• Boston Properties marketing operations attracted qualified competent companies to locate within the Urban Initiatives Project area, resulting in the construction of 1.1-million square feet of mixed-used development, including two 12- to 13- story retail, office buildings; a 13-story office building constructed on air rights over the MBTA traction power substation; a 25-story hotel; a 4-story retail, office building; and a 863-car garage with a one-acre open space roof–top garden.

• The CRA constructed public improvements throughout the area: streets and sidewalks, landscaping, Transit Plaza, Galaxy park, and pedestrian walkways.

• UMTA provided the critical financing the MBTA needed to reschedule and upgrade its Kendall Station facilities. UMTA considered the Kendall Station Project to be a successful Urban Initiatives Project because it attracted private investments to the Cambridge urban area, and "a model for other cities on the positive impact that transit accessibility can have on community development".

• The joint public-private cooperative effort helped to create an environment that supported Boston Properties’ marketing operations and provided a jump-start to generate momentum to develop Parcel 4.

In 1979, when the MBTA submitted its application for Kendall Station designation as an Urban Initiatives Project, the CRA’s expectations were that the Cambridge Center Project would be completed in about ten years and produce 1.7-million square feet of mixed-use development and generate $200-million of private investments. Thirty years later, the Cambridge Center Project is in its last phase, and upon completion is projected to have produced 3-million square feet of mixed-uses, and generated about $1-billion of private investments, $15-million of property tax revenues and about 6,000 jobs.

The joint public-private team enterprise in the successful redevelopment of Parcel 4 was a factor in the real estate development community’s apparent re-evaluation of its skepticism about the development climate in the City of Cambridge. Starting in the 1980’s, private investments were made to develop the rest of the Cambridge Center Project, and subsequently a flood of development occurred in the East Cambridge industrial area.

END

P.S.: Robert F. Rowland was the CRA Executive Director in the 1970’s when planning to integrate the CRA’s and MBTA’s urban redevelopment operations in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project were initiated, and which resulted in the designation of the Kendall Station as an Urban Initiatives Project.


Thad J. Tercyak Professional Resume
1610 N Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center, FL 33573; Phone (813) 633-5746 (Nov-May)
108 Alden Village Ct., Cary, NC 27519; Phone (919) 460-4526 (June-Oct)
E-Mail: tedtercyak AT cs DOT com

Professional Employment
Cambridge Redevelopment Authority: Associate Director, 1968-1990.
Boston Redevelopment Authority: Project Director, Washington Park and South End urban renewal projects; 1961-1968.
Cuyahoga County Planning Authority (Cleveland, Ohio): Economist, 1957-1960.
Connecticut Development Commission (Adams, Howard & Greeley, City Planning Consultants): Economist, 1956-1957.

Academic
University of Pittsburgh: Master’s Degree, Public Administration, 1961.
University of Connecticut: Master’s Degree, Economics, 1956.
Boston University Metropolitan College: Part-time Instructor, Urban Renewal, 1975-6.

Publications

Cambridge Civic Journal:
"Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Six Pivotal Episodes"; June, 2013.
"Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, Initial Years, 1963 to 1982"; July, 2012.

Urban Land Institute:
"Joint Development at Kendall Square"; April, 1991.
"Marketing Public Land"; February, 1986.
"Cambridge Center Project Design"; April, 1985.
"Panel Revisits: Cambridge Center: Downtown Redevelopment"; February, 1985.

Journal of Housing:
"Project Design: A Cooperative Effort"; September/October, 1984.
"Kendall Square: An Urban Renewal Success"; September/October, 1982.

Urban Land Institute (ULI) , Advisory Services Panelist:
An Evaluation of the Development Potential and Revitalization Strategy for the Silver Triangle Site, Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, 1992.
An Evaluation of Kennedy and LaGuardia Airport Access for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the City of New York, 1991

Professional Resume, summary
Mr. Tercyak’s professional background includes Master’s degrees in Economics and Public Administration; 22 years as Associate Director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority; 7 years as project director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Washington Park and South End urban renewal projects; 5 years as an economist with city and county planning agencies; and Urban Land Institute advisory services panelist evaluating potential development projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and for downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. Several articles published in the Cambridge Civic Journal, Urban Land Institute Magazine and Journal of Housing. Part-time instructor, Community Development, Boston University Metropolitan College.

December 1, 2013

Home Stretch – Dec 2, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Home Stretch – Dec 2, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

This Monday should be an interesting day. The City Council Recount commences at 8:30am at the Moore Youth Center (12 Gilmore St. by Hoyt Field), and at 5:30pm the City Council will meet in City Hall at the same time the Central Square Advisory Committee will be meeting next door in the Lombardi Building to hear testimony and discuss a housing proposal for 10 Essex Street. [The Planning Board will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the same proposal.]

There’s not a single City Council Order on the agenda this week, but there are a few noteworthy items as the 2012-13 City Council heads into its final month.

Central SquareManager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Council Order No. 28, dated Sept 9, 2013, regarding establishing a committee to monitor the progress of the non-zoning recommendations of the C2 Committee.

The proposal is to fold consideration of the non-zoning C2 recommendations into the scope of the existing Central Square Advisory Committee which has been around since the creation of the Central Square Overlay District over two decades ago. This will coincide with upcoming appointments to the committee to bring it back up to the 9 members specified in the ordinance. The zoning-related recommendations of the C2 Committee (as developed by CDD staff) will likely be where most of any controversy will play itself out, but the non-zoning recommendations will have a lot to do with defining the fabric of Central Square in the sense of "place-making."

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, regarding the creation of a short term task force that will consider drafting a municipal ordinance related to outdoor lighting.

The Teague Petition on this subject may have died last year due to its shortcomings, but a task force was promised to come up with a more appropriate proposal. These appointments mark the beginning of that process. Recommendations are anticipated in the spring. It’s not surprising that Charles Teague is one of the appointed members, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he can work cooperatively with the other 11 appointees. As with most things it’s better to have a balanced committee that can gather input from all stakeholders. This also applies to the soon-to-be-appointed "Net Zero" task force.

Unfinished Business #13. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 7, 2013 on the petition received from Boston Properties to amend the Zoning Ordinances and Zoning Map in the Ames Street area. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Dec 2, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Nov 12, 2013. Petition expires Feb 5, 2014.

Communications #2. A communication was received from Kathleen Born, Chair, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board transmitting the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Support for Boston Properties Ames Street Zoning Petition including a response to a request from the Ordinance Committee regarding fast food permits for the MXD District together with a Letter of Intent for the Ames Street Housing Project between the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and Boston Properties Limited Partnership.

The Ames Street Zoning Petition has another City Council hearing scheduled for Dec 9, so this matter won’t be voted until at least then. The communication from CRA Chair Kathy Born provides some details behind various provisions in the petition which is primarily about facilitating construction of housing on this stretch of Ames Street.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 20, 2013 to discuss a petition by the City Manager to amend the Zoning Ordinances of the City of Cambridge to define and list Registered Marijuana Dispensary, delete Section 11.700 and create a new Section 20.700 entitled Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts.

The proposed ordinance change is now taking shape, but it’s probably a good idea to think of this in conjunction with proposed statewide ballot questions that could potentially legalize marijuana outright. It would be reasonable to speculate that regulations now being developed for dispensaries would become the basis for future regulations for general sale of this drug should any such ballot questions prevail.

Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Nov 21, 2013 to conduct a public hearing on a zoning petition filed by Christopher H. Lutz, et al requesting the City Council to amend the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge by rezoning an area on the northern border of Richdale Avenue from Upland Road to Walden Street from its C1-A designation to residential C-1.

There’s not much to say about this except to note that the petition arose from a proposed redevelopment of the former Hathaway Bakery on Richdale Ave. for up to 54 units of new housing. Because the petition is opposed by owners of more than 20% of the affected area, it will require 7 votes out of 9 city councillors to pass the petition. As this may be difficult to achieve, it may well be the case that negotiation will be the preferred course of action for those unhappy with the proposed development. – Robert Winters

June 8, 2013

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Six Pivotal Episodes

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Six Pivotal Episodes

By Thad Tercyak, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, Associate Director, 1968-1990

In 2012, the Cambridge Civic Journal published "Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Initial Years, 1963 to 1982". The following commentary focuses on six pivotal episodes during the 1963-1982 time period which provided the impetus for major development in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project. Successful development of the Kendall Square Project was a major factor in helping to attract high-tech companies to locate in the eastern sector of the City of Cambridge. Today there are over 163 institutional research companies within a 1-mile radius of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project area (Source: Boston Consulting Group, Capital IQ DB, U.S. Census Bureau, National Science Foundation.)

The episodes are described in chronological order.

1. Conceptualization and initiation of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project

In 1963, Mr. Robert F. Rowland, a city planner with extensive urban redevelopment experience, commuted to his job with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), parking his car in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Kendall Square rapid transit station parking lot. He noticed the area north of the rapid transit station was severely underdeveloped and an urban blight with underutilized, largely vacant and obsolete industrial and warehouse buildings. Because of the extent of urban blight, there did not appear to be any prospects for private development there. As a city planner, he visualized the land as an ideal site for urban redevelopment because of its unique locational advantages, including the rapid transit station, proximity to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), direct subway connections to Harvard and downtown Boston, and easy connection to Logan Airport.

Rowland was aware President John F. Kennedy had assigned the task of sending an American astronaut safely to and from the Moon before the end of the decade to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which was searching for a site in the Boston area for development of its Electronic Research Center.

On their own time, Rowland and two associates sketched out a redevelopment plan for the Kendall Square area which would accommodate NASA and provide land for NASA-related private development. He presented his concept plan to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) which asked him to work with the CRA to move the plan through the redevelopment process. Rowland agreed, left his job with the BRA, was hired by the CRA and in 1964 was appointed CRA Executive Director.

In 1964, the CRA presented the concept plan to the Cambridge City Council. The Council voted to have the CRA prepare a redevelopment plan for the Kendall Square area with two objectives: (1) to provide land for both NASA and private development which would generate needed tax revenues for the City of Cambridge and employment opportunities; and (2) to secure maximum federal funds to help alleviate concerns about Cambridge’s ability to finance its share of the cost to carry out the project.

With respect to the first objective, the City of Cambridge, with support from local and congressional representatives, convinced NASA officials of the advantages of a Kendall Square location. After discussions and consultations among the CRA, NASA, Cambridge representatives and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), it was determined that development could be expedited by using the urban renewal process.

2. Financing Cambridge’s $6.5-million share of the project cost

With respect to the second objective, the CRA advised Cambridge officials to take advantage of a complex urban renewal financing formula which could be used to "secure maximum federal funds" to finance Cambridge’s share of the cost to carry out the project.. The formula, based on Section 112 of the Housing Act of 1949, provided that expenditures by educational institutions and hospitals on facilities located within a mile of an urban renewal project that contributed to the objectives of the urban renewal project can be used as credits ("Section 112 credits") to cover the local share of the project cost.

The CRA took the lead in coordinating the efforts of Cambridge, MIT officials and congressional representatives to work out the details required to secure federal approval of the Section 112 credits financing plan. The City and MIT entered into an agreement which provided that MIT prepare a Development Plan which included MIT property located within a mile of the redevelopment area to be used for educational purposes. After the City’s review and approval of the plan, the expenditures incurred by MIT to acquire land and construct buildings in accordance with the plan could be used as Section 112 credits. Subsequently, when the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project was approved, MIT provided $6.5-million dollars in Section 112 credits to cover the City of Cambridge’s entire share of the project cost.

3. NASA Quits. CRA amends Kendall Square redevelopment plan and objectives

The original Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan covered 43 acres of land and designated 29 acres for use by NASA and 14 acres for NASA-related private development. The initial four years of the project were executed expeditiously. The CRA transferred 19 acres of vacant land to NASA for construction of a 14-story office tower and five low-rise buildings, and prepared an additional 10 acres of vacant land for future development by NASA. In 1970, without warning, NASA decided to abandon its operations in the project. It indicated it did not need the 10-acre site of vacant land designated for its development, and was transferring its interests in the project to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT established the National Transportation System Center on the site formerly occupied by NASA and named it after John A. Volpe, Secretary of DOT and former governor of Massachusetts

Cognizant that the 10-acre site originally designated for NASA’s use under the terms of the original Kendall square Urban Renewal Plan was still undeveloped and in CRA possession, the CRA recognized an opportunity to expand the area of land which could be developed for private uses which would benefit Cambridge more than if the land was developed by the federal government. The CRA decided to amend the Kendall Square Plan to designate new reuses for the undeveloped land even though that meant starting again the complicated and time consuming process of preparing a second Kendall Square Plan.

The CRA commenced negotiations with DOT Secretary Volpe, making the case that DOT should relinquish its rights to Parcel 2 because NASA’s withdrawal from the project was a breach of its contractual obligation with the CRA; a flagrant disregard of its commitment to the community; and had undermined the City’s program to market the project area for private development. After 2 years of prolonged negotiations among the CRA, DOT, U.S. General Services Administration, and HUD, Secretary Volpe released DOT’s rights to Parcel 2 to the CRA.

When NASA decided to withdraw from the Kendall Square area, the feeling in the City of Cambridge was that the project had been delivered a tremendous setback because it had lost its major developer. As it turned out, despite the years of development delays caused by NASA’s the withdrawal, it was a blessing in disguise because the additional 10-acres of land plus the 14 acres already designated for private development became a 24-acre site large enough to create a critical mass for high-tech development in the Kendall Square Project which eventually helped to attract additional high-tech development in the eastern sector of Cambridge.

4. Urban Land Institute Advisory Services engaged to help break planning deadlock.

Cambridge was unprepared for carrying out the difficult and complicated tasks involved in overhauling the original plan and replacing it with an entirely new plan. Cambridge City Council created a task force comprised of representatives from a cross-section of Cambridge organizations and the Cambridge Planning Department to work with the CRA in the re-planning effort. A number of plans were developed, including proposals with contradictory project objectives, including "quick-fix" land uses, such as a beer distribution warehouse, a soccer field, open space, even restoring the Broad Canal, but the City could not arrive at a consensus.

Over time, a cloud descended over the project’s development potential and grumbles concerning the apparent lack of progress in redeveloping the site began to be heard, even mockery about changing the name of Kendall Square to "Nowhere Square".

To help break the planning deadlock, the CRA retained the advisory panel services of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to review the Kendall Square Project and propose ways to move the project in the right direction. In carrying out the assignment for the CRA, panel members first spent two days reviewing comprehensive briefing materials prepared by the CRA staff and touring the project and surrounding area. Then individual panelists and teams conferred with nearly 100 community spokespersons, citizens, business persons, government officials, members of the local real estate community, and others interested and concerned with the future revitalization of the Kendall Square area.

The ULI panel concluded that only a few properties in the country had a broader array of locational advantages as the Kendall Square area and the opportunities associated with the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: "Cambridge Center is a unique opportunity area, one that should be reserved to maximize its locational advantages". The ULI panel presented a point of view that the Kendall Square Project was a valuable asset that has the potential to produce great benefits to the City of Cambridge; and that the CRA and Cambridge City Council should resist the impulse to dispose of the land to take advantage of its short term marketability in response to concerns being expressed about development delays. The panel urged the CRA and City to be patient and adopt an optimal type of development that reflected the highest and best use for the land which would bring the greatest long range benefit to the Cambridge community. The panel proposed a long-term, sophisticated, large-scale, mixed-use optimal type of development.

The ULI panel’s professionalism and diligence in carrying out its mission impressed and gained the confidence of the CRA and Cambridge City Council which endorsed the panel’s recommendations and approved a Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan for a mixed-use development, with the general objectives of generating tax revenues and jobs.

The ULI panel also warned that attracting developers would not be easy: "Citizen concerns, political pressures, economic uncertainty, and the absence of a united and strong development process have combined to create a credibility problem with the real estate development community". The Panel advised the CRA could overcome developer skepticism about the development climate in Cambridge by establishing a record for getting things done.

The CRA responded by removing all legal and technical impediments to development; completing an Environmental Impact Statement; securing plan and zoning amendments; and carrying out a $7-million public improvements program, including construction of infrastructure and execution of traffic circulation plans.

5. Boston Properties selected to develop Cambridge Center

For marketing purposes the name Cambridge Center was adopted to refer to the 24 acres in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project outside of the land occupied by DOT. In 1978, the CRA invited proposals to develop Cambridge Center. Four well qualified developers were selected as finalists, including Boston Properties which was not as well known in the Boston area as the other developers. After exhaustive interviews with each developer and analysis of each development proposal, the CRA designated Boston Properties as developer for Cambridge Center because it had two significant advantages over its competition:

1. Boston Properties’ two principals had worked as a team for many years producing a number of successful well-designed real estate developments nationwide. In contrast, the other finalists had undergone changes or formed new teams, making evaluations of future performance difficult.

2. Boston Properties’ financial capabilities were impressive. It was well capitalized and had a net worth adequate to sustain a large and complex development such as Cambridge Center. It had current assets sufficient to fund first-rate design and site planning; a cash flow arising from a broad, geographically diverse base of real estate investments that could support substantial start-up costs and sustain development during difficult economic times; and a proven ability to manage investment property effectively and efficiently.

Boston Properties turned out to be the right choice because it had the background, experience, resources and patience to attract the type of users that met the standards proposed in the ULI recommendations, that of promoting land development to its highest and best uses. Subsequently, the development of Cambridge Center benefitted the City of Cambridge by achieving goals for the amended Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan set by the Cambridge City Council: generating $15-million in annual property tax revenues and 7,500 jobs.

6. High-tech development

The combination of (a) the presence of MIT, an international leader in high-tech research and innovation; (b) Polaroid’s decision to locate in Technology Square, a real estate development started in the 1960’s by Cabot, Cabot and Forbes in partnership with MIT that also included Rogers Block, a CRA urban renewal project adjacent to the Kendall Square Project; (c) the presence of Draper Laboratories in the immediate neighborhood; and (d) decisions by the Whitehead Institute and Biogen in 1982 to locate in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project area were key elements leading to the emergence of high-tech development in the Kendall Square Project, and helping to attract major technology and biotechnology development in the eastern sector of Cambridge. Today there are over 163 institutional research companies within a 1-mile radius of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project area.


P.S. Robert F. Rowland was CRA Executive Director during all the episodes from 1963 to 1982.

As CRA Associate Director, Thad Tercyak participated directly in the episodes from 1968 to 1990.

February 11, 2013

Marijuana and More – Feb 11, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge Redevelopment Authority,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:41 am

Marijuana and More – Feb 11, 2013 Cambridge City Council Agenda highlights

Here are a few items that drew my wayward attention:

Manager’s Agenda #3. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Medical Marijuana Interim Zoning Petition.

It would appear that Cambridge is approaching this with the same caution as many other Massachusetts cities and towns. It’s an interesting dilemma that marijuana sales may be legal at such dispensaries, but transporting it to the dispensaries may not be. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a zoning petition received from the Planning Board regarding bicycle parking modifications. [Report]

Accommodation of secure bicycle parking for residents and patrons should be required of all property owners. This zoning petition will essentially apply only to new buildings containing more than three units, but all property owners and managers should really be providing this. It’s a little bizarre that the report requires 38 pages to convey this simple idea. The proposal would be better if it also applied to existing residential and commercial buildings. I say this as a person who accommodates bicycles for tenants of my building, yet my two commercial/residential neighbors provided barely any such accommodation during recent renovations and, in fact, made their structures less inviting for bicycles.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of D. Margaret Drury to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority for a 5-year term, effective Apr 12, 2013.

This is a great reappointment and certainly leads you to wonder what role the CRA will play in future Cambridge development.

Charter Right #1. That the City Manager is requested to work together with the appropriate city officials including the City Solicitor and report back to the City Council regarding modification of the ordinance (10.12.030) that links the awarding of a one yearlong Visitor Parking Permit per household to the purchase of a $25 Cambridge Resident Parking Permit. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Decker on Order Number Eight of Jan 28, 2013.]

This is a pretty simple idea and a fair one. The Resident Parking Permit fee was recently raised significantly with the acknowledgement that the $25 fee was still very reasonable for the right to park anywhere in Cambridge. At the time when the fee was raised, nobody talked about the fact that this would also apply to Visitor Parking Permits which are used infrequently and which only apply in the immediate neighborhood. It seems very reasonable that a lower fee (or perhaps no fee) should apply for getting only the Visitor Permit. It was a little strange to hear Councillor Decker at the previous meeting characterizing this proposal in terms of potential loss of revenue. Relatively speaking, this is pocket change.

Resolution #33. Resolution on the death of Andrew Jackson Spears.   Councillor Reeves, Vice Mayor Simmons, Mayor Davis

Andrew Spears was the husband of former Election Commissioner Artis Spears. Together they operated the A.J. Spears Funeral Home, a community institution in the Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge. He was a friend to many Cambridge families.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to meet with NSTAR company officials to establish a firm timeline for maintenance and replacement plans for the transformers and electrical systems that serve the city to ensure that local businesses and residential communities are fully serviced   Councillor Cheung and Councillor Reeves

It’s unusual to see City Council orders that speak so directly to potential limitations of the essential infrastructure of the city and the need to maintain and enhance this infrastructure in anticipation of future growth. I expect there are some people who would actively oppose this as a means of limiting growth – the same people who would likely advocate cobblestone roads to limit traffic. I recall not so long ago hearing someone speak against renovations of Cambridge’s water treatment facility because he thought this would only lead to more development and more people living in Cambridge.

Order #6. That the City Council call upon members of the Cambridge Congressional Delegation to reject any proposal that seeks to balance the federal budget at the expense of state and local governments.   Councillor Cheung and Mayor Davis

This Order refers to a truly frightening proposal to remove the tax exemption on municipal bonds. I can’t believe there are people in the U.S. Congress who would advocate such a city-killing idea.

Order #10. That the City Manager is hereby requested to appoint a special task force of real estate and engineering professionals to assess and evaluate the current condition of the Foundry property and projected capital needs as well as anticipated expenses of maintaining the building.   Councillor Toomey and Councillor Maher

The battle lines over the future of this building are being drawn with some very different points of view among city councillors. This is just the next round in a continuing tussle.

Order #11. That the City Manager is requested to work with the appropriate city staff to provide a report to the City Council detailing how the City of Cambridge working in conjunction with the DCR will insure that oversize vehicles not be allowed travel along Memorial Drive so that accidents similar to the sad crushing of the tour bus of prospective Harvard Students do not occur again.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

They can start by making sure those heavy rubber hanging mats are all in place as a warning system for oversized vehicles on these DCR roads. Needless to say, it doesn’t help when the bus driver is paying more attention to his GPS than to the road in front of him. This, of course, is a problem everywhere. We have become a nation of robots.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public meeting held on Nov 20, 2012 to continue discussions on security cameras in the City.

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Craig Kelley, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 23, 2013 to continue discussions on security cameras in the City.

I don’t expect to see anything sensible happening as a result of these hearings. It seems obvious to many of us that judicious use of cameras on major roads and potential problem areas is just common sense use of available technology.

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 24, 2013 to discuss a zoning petition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by creating a new Section 13.80 – Planned Unit Development 5 (PUD-5) District, which includes several parcels totaling approximately 26 acres in the area north of Memorial Drive, east of Ames Street and south of Main Street and Broadway, and would also include a parcel at One Broadway. The new Section 13.80 PUD-5 is intended to allow mixed use developments with increased development densities and heights.

I was recently on an MIT panel that addressed the substance of this petition. Some thoughts on Housing and the MIT/Kendall Petition can be found at http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=2436.

Committee Report #5. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 17, 2013 to discuss the zoning petition filed by Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

Committee Report #6. A communication was received from Paula Crane, Administrative Assistant, Office of the City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Jan 30, 2013 to continue discussions on a zoning petition filed by Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

The Planning Board delivered its report at the last Council meeting and now the City Council has the report from the Ordinance Committee. The City Council may now be in a position to pass the petition to a 2nd Reading and get this petition in the queue for ordination in a few weeks. All the ducks appear to be in a row, but election year politics could still be a problem. Those of us who have followed all of the Central Square conversations over the last couple of years know that the really interesting zoning deliberations are yet to come. This petition was never more than a minor revision to the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District (CRDD) with the potential to improve a long-neglected block of Mass. Ave. It will be good to get a few other benefits out of the process, but this is really just a warm-up to something much more interesting. – RW

Post-meeting update: The City Council passed the Forest City petition to a 2nd Reading at this meeting on a 7-2 vote with Councillors vanBeuzekom and Kelley voting NO while saying this would be "premature". It was Councillor Reeves who then correctly noted that this is the 2nd time the petition has been submitted and that it’s been batted around now for nearly a year. There’s no way to logically conclude that advancing this petition is "premature". The petition could come to a final vote as soon as Mon, Feb 25.

July 12, 2012

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Initial Years, 1963 to 1982

Filed under: Cambridge Redevelopment Authority,East Cambridge,Kendall Square,planning — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 6:16 pm

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project: Initial Years, 1963 to 1982

By Thad Tercyak


This narrative was submitted in response to the following invitation:
The November 28, 2011 edition of the Cambridge Civic Journal reported (a) that several informative documents regarding the history and background of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority were made available and entered into the record and (b) “Any additional information on the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority or the history of urban renewal in Cambridge are also welcome…. – Robert Winters, Editor.”


The following narrative provides additional background information on the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) and pertains to the history of urban renewal in the City of Cambridge during the initial 19 years of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, from 1963 to 1981. It was during this period of time that the CRA initiated the Kendall Square Project, acquired, cleared and improved 43-acres of land which was an urban eyesore of underutilized and obsolete industrial and warehouse buildings and made the land available for construction of public improvements and private development in accordance with the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan. As a result of these activities, the CRA was in a position to undertake completion of the remaining pieces of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, also known as Cambridge Center. The subsequent efforts of the CRA and its developer culminated in the development of the Cambridge Center Project.

This period of time coincides with the tenure of Mr. Robert F. Rowland as the CRA Executive Director who, among the many people and organizations involved in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project, provided leadership during the Project’s difficult and, at times, painful periods.

In 1968, as an economist-urban planner specializing in urban redevelopment projects and completing seven years as a director of two major urban renewal projects with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, I was hired by the CRA as an Associate Director. I left the CRA in 1990. I participated in virtually all of the events described in this narrative which occurred during my 22 years with the CRA, 1968 to 1990. Descriptions of the events which occurred between 1963 and 1968 before I joined the CRA and descriptions of the events after I left the CRA in 1990 are based on CRA records and reports, and conversations with CRA staff.

Initiation of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project

Before joining the CRA, Robert F. Rowland was a city planner with extensive urban redevelopment experience, and at various times served as Director of Community Development with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), Deputy Director of the Providence Redevelopment Authority, and as a partner in a consultant firm specializing in city planning and urban redevelopment projects.

In 1963, Rowland commuted to his job with the BRA, parking his car in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Kendall Square rapid transit station parking lot. He noticed that the area north of the rapid transition station was severely underdeveloped with underutilized, largely vacant, obsolete industrial and warehouse buildings, a blighting influence on the surrounding area. As a city planner, he visualized the land as an ideal site for urban redevelopment because of its unique locational advantages, including the rapid transit station, proximity to MIT, direct subway connections to Harvard University and downtown Boston, and easy connection to Logan Airport.

Rowland was also aware that there was competition in the Boston area to provide a site for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a technologically sophisticated Electronic Research Center.

On their own time, Rowland and two associates sketched out a redevelopment plan for the Kendall Square area which would accommodate NASA and provide land for NASA-related private development. He presented his concept plan to the CRA Board which asked him to work with the CRA to move the plan through the redevelopment process. Rowland agreed, left his job with the BRA, was hired by the CRA and subsequently appointed CRA Executive Director.

In 1964 the CRA presented the concept plan to Cambridge City Council. The Council reacted favorably and voted to have the CRA prepare a redevelopment plan for the Kendall Square area with two general objectives:

  1. to provide land for both NASA and private development which would generate needed tax revenues and employment opportunities for the City of Cambridge; and
  2. to secure maximum federal funds to finance implementation of the redevelopment plan.

With respect to the first general objective, the City of Cambridge, with support for the project from local and congressional representatives, convinced NASA officials of the advantages of a Kendall Square location. After discussions and consultations among the CRA, NASA, Cambridge representatives and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), it was ascertained that development could be expedited through the use of the urban renewal process because of its unique advantages, including:

  1. Preparation of a redevelopment plan sponsored and approved by the City of Cambridge.
  2. Land assembly through the use of local “quick-taking” eminent domain powers.
  3. Financing of most of the project costs by the Federal government.
  4. CRA control over developer selection and approval of developers’ plans.

With respect to the second general objective, the CRA advised the City of Cambridge to take advantage of a complex urban renewal financing formula which could be used “to secure maximum federal funds to finance implementation of the redevelopment plan”. The formula, based on Section 112 of the Housing Act of 1949 as amended in 1954 and 1955, provided that expenditures by educational institutions and hospitals located within a mile of an urban renewal project and conducting activities that contribute to the objectives of the urban renewal project can be used as credits (“Section 112 credits”) to cover the local share of the cost to carry out the project. The CRA took the lead in contacting MIT officials and congressional representatives in working out the details required to secure federal approval of the Section 112 credits financing plan. Consequently, the City and MIT entered into an agreement which provided that MIT submit to the City for its approval a Development Plan which included MIT property located within a mile of the redevelopment area to be used exclusively for educational purposes. Then the expenditures incurred by MIT to acquire land and buildings in accordance with the Agreement could be used as Section 112 credits. Subsequently, when the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project was approved, MIT provided $6.5 million dollars in Section 112 credits to cover the City of Cambridge’s entire share of the net project cost.

In 1965, the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project prepared by the CRA was approved by the City of Cambridge, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal government. The project covered a 43-acre site in and around Kendall Square, comprised of four parcels: Parcel 1
(19 acres) and Parcel 2, (10 acres), both designated for use by NASA; Parcels 3 and 4 (14 acres combined) designated for private development.

In 1966, NASA signed a Land Disposition Contract with the CRA which provided that the CRA transfer, as soon as possible, ownership to NASA of 19 acres of land (Parcel 1) ready for construction of improvements by NASA. The CRA immediately started land preparation activities, delivered the land on schedule and NASA constructed a 14-story office tower and five low rise buildings. A particularly difficult task for the CRA was securing permission to fill the Broad Canal, which ran through the middle of the project area. The CRA had to deal with the nightmare of resolving the bureaucratic requirements of a multitude of agencies involved in relocating the Canal to an underground pipe system.

NASA Quits; DOT Releases Land

Then in 1969, without warning, NASA announced the closing of its facility in Cambridge and its intent to withdraw from the project, in spite of bitter objections and protests by the City of Cambridge. Subsequently, NASA’s interest in the site was transferred to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In 1970, the DOT established on Parcel 1 the National Transportation System Center, later named after John A. Volpe, Secretary of DOT and former governor of Massachusetts.

Since Parcel 2, the 10-acre site originally designated for NASA’s use under the terms of the original Kendall square Urban Renewal Plan was still undeveloped and in CRA possession, the CRA recognized an opportunity to expand the area of land which could be developed for private uses which would be likely to benefit Cambridge more than if the land were to be developed by the federal government. The CRA met with DOT Secretary Volpe, and made the case that DOT should relinquish its rights to Parcel 2 because NASA’s withdrawal from the project was a breach of its contractual obligation with the CRA, a flagrant disregard of its commitment to the community and it undermined the City’s program to effectively market the rest of the project area for private development.

On November 23, 1971, almost 2 years after NASA announced it was quitting its obligations to the City of Cambridge regarding development in the Kendall Square Project and after prolonged negotiations among the CRA, DOT, U.S. General Services Administration, and HUD, DOT Secretary Volpe released DOT’s rights to Parcel 2 to the CRA.

Amending the Redevelopment Plan

Retrieving the rights to Parcel 2’s 10 undeveloped acres required that the CRA amend the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan in order to designate new reuses for the land. The 10 acres plus the 14 acres originally designated for development by NASA became a 24-acre site for private development and had a tremendous impact on the development potential of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project. Unfortunately, the atmosphere for carrying out a new planning effort came at a particularly inopportune time.

The Boston Area real estate market was in the doldrums for a good part of the 1970’s and new development was at virtual standstill. Turmoil created by the Vietnam War protests made for difficult conditions for rational land use planning as some protesters attended planning meetings for the main purpose of expressing their objections to the war. Locally, community groups proposed contradictory project objectives, including “quick-fix” land uses, such as a beer distribution warehouse, a soccer field, open space, even restoring the Broad Canal. Cambridge City Council created a task force comprised of representatives from a cross-section of Cambridge organizations to work with the CRA in a new planning effort. A number different
land use plans were developed, but the City could not arrive at a consensus on land uses for the project.

Over time, a cloud descended over the project’s development potential as efforts to resolve planning problems were frustrated and grumbles concerning the apparent lack of progress in redeveloping the site began to be heard.

During the time Cambridge City Council was struggling to settle on an acceptable Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan, the CRA was busy completing land preparation activities and creating vacant land ready for new construction once the planning deadlock was resolved.

Land Preparation Activities

Land preparation activities executed by the CRA included roughly the acquisition of 100 parcels of land, relocation of 100 businesses, demolition of 50 buildings, clearance of 43 acres of land, construction of public improvements and creation of new traffic patterns.

Relocation is among the most difficult land preparation activity because the redevelopment authority must interface with the people who are disrupted by the project. Practically all of the relocation in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project involved businesses, as only a handful of families were affected. Some businesses did not object to being acquired or relocated because they were already planning to leave the area. However, most of the Kendall Square businesses endured various degrees of hardship by being required to move. There were understandable feelings of shock, anger, bewilderment, and vows to resist moving. Consequently, the CRA carefully selected staff for the relocation operation, making sure they had the sensitivity to patiently work with people who had to move, treating them with dignity, respect and courtesy. There were no forced legal evictions and the Kendall Square relocation operation required years to accomplish as some businesses took that long before they moved.

It is during the land preparation stage that a redevelopment agency experiences its most difficult time because of the problems associated with relocation operations and some of the other activities, such as demolition of buildings, site preparations, discontinuances of existing streets, and construction of new streets and utilities, are messy, noisy, dirty, unsightly, and often a public nuisance.

The land preparation activities phase is the nitty-gritty, heavy lifting period of the redevelopment process. Its purpose is to transform land containing outmoded, derelict buildings and blighting uses into vacant land ready for construction of improvements designated by the renewal plan. But if the real estate market is not receptive to the reuses designated by the renewal plan, the land remains vacant until market conditions favorable to the renewal plan’s reuses come into existence. The longer the time land remains vacant, the more complaints are heard about the lack of progress and the amount of time that has gone by since the start of the redevelopment project.

ULI Panel Helps To Break Deadlock

To help break the planning deadlock, the CRA retained the advisory panel services of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to review the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project and suggest ways to move the project in the right direction. ULI’s advisory panel services program approaches a project from all perspectives by assembling experts in the fields of market potential, land use and design, financing and development strategies, and organizing for implementation.

In carrying out the assignment for the CRA, panel members first spent two days reviewing comprehensive briefing materials prepared by the CRA staff; touring the project and surrounding area; and individually and in teams talking with nearly 100 community
spokespersons, citizens, business persons, government officials, members of the local real estate community, and others interested and concerned with the future revitalization of the Kendall Square area. Then the panel spent the next two days framing their recommendations and drafting a report which was presented to the public.

The ULI panel concluded that only a few properties in the country had a broader array of locational advantages as the Kendall Square area and the opportunities associated with the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project suggested a sophisticated large, planned-unit development approach. The panel stated there were two approaches to redevelopment to consider:

  1. Dispose of the land for an optimal type of development that will reflect the highest and best use of the land, thereby bringing the greatest long-range benefit to the Cambridge community.
  2. Dispose of the land to take advantage of its short term marketability, enabling the CRA and Cambridge City Council to respond promptly to concerns being expressed respecting development delays.

The ULI panel’s preference was for the first approach: “Cambridge Center is a unique opportunity area, one that should be reserved to maximize its locational advantages”. The CRA adopted the ULI panel recommendations respecting an optimal type of development. The ULI panel’s professionalism and diligence in carrying out its mission impressed and gained the confidence of the Cambridge City Council. The Council sent a message to the real estate development community that it was ready to change the development climate in Cambridge by approving zoning for a mixed-use plan amendment to the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area and urging the CRA to move forward with development.

Attracting Developers

The ULI panel also warned that attracting developers would not be easy: “Citizen concerns, political pressures, economic uncertainty, and the absence of a united and strong development process have combined to create a credibility problem with the real estate development community”. The Panel advised that the CRA could overcome developer skepticism concerning the development climate in Cambridge by establishing a track record for getting things done.

The CRA responded by removing all legal and technical impediments to development; completing an Environmental Impact Statement; securing plan and zoning amendments; and carrying out a $7 million public improvements program, such as infrastructure construction and improving the appearance of vacant land through dust control measures, fencing, etc.

The CRA, working closely with Cambridge representatives and the local congressional delegation, intensified local efforts to secure federal funds needed to complete the project. As a result, in 1974 HUD agreed to reserve an additional $15-million for the project. Then in 1975 Congress passed and President Ford signed legislation limiting Cambridge’s share of the project cost to the initial $6.4 million, contributed in 1965, in the form of Section 112 credits. Consequently, Cambridge’s share of the project costs was negligible.

Selecting a Developer

In 1976, for marketing purposes the name Cambridge Center was adopted to refer to the 24 acres in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project outside of the land occupied by the DOT. The CRA established a Development Advisory Group comprised of experts in large-scale project financing and real estate negotiations to provide counsel in its negotiations with developers; and
a Design Advisory Group consisting of local independent architects to help evaluate large-scale design proposals.

In 1978, an invitation for proposals to develop 14 of the 24 acres comprising Cambridge Center based on the theme that “The Best Site to Develop in Boston is Not in Boston”, met with encouraging response from developers. Four well qualified finalists were selected from among the developers who submitted proposals. The CRA interviewed in depth each of the four finalists. The Development Advisory Group examined each developers finished projects, financial soundness and marketing performance. The Design Advisory Group evaluated each developers design team. After exhaustive interviews and analysis, it was determined that Boston Properties had two important advantages over its competition:

  1. Boston Properties’ two principals had worked as a team for many years producing a number of successful real estate developments nationwide. In contrast, the other finalists had undergone changes or formed new teams, making evaluations of future performance difficult.
  2. Boston Properties’ financial capabilities were impressive. It had demonstrated a net worth adequate to sustain a large and complex development such as Cambridge Center, including current assets sufficient to fund first-rate development planning; a willingness to invest those funds in Cambridge Center; a cash flow arising from a broad, geographically diverse base of real estate investments that could support start-up costs and sustain development during tough economic times; and a proven ability to manage investment property effectively while adjusting to economic changes.

Selecting Boston Properties as the developer of Cambridge Center was a difficult decision by the CRA because of pressure from supporters of the other finalists.

Building Construction Begins

In 1979 a development agreement between the CRA and Boston properties was executed, including conditions that the developer commence initial development activities by constructing a major building within seven months, and depositing $250,000 as security for the developer’s performance. Boston Properties met its obligation by starting construction of a 13-story office building as required by the agreement.

In 1981 Boston Properties commenced construction of a 12-story office building with ground floor retail and a 5-story, 863-space garage with an open space park built on the roof of the garage.

Subsequently, the CRA revised its development agreement with Boston Properties to include Parcel 2’s 10 acres, so that the area comprising Cambridge Center totaled 24 acres.

Summary

In 1963 Cambridge City Council designated the CRA as the lead agency with major responsibility for carrying out the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project. In 1964 the CRA Board appointed Robert F, Rowland as its Executive Director. During Rowland’s tenure from 1964 to 1982, the CRA accomplished the following objectives:

  1. Initiated the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project after NASA chose Cambridge as the location for its Electronics Research Center;
  2. Secured financing for the project;
  3. Completed land preparation activities;
  4. Persuaded U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to release its hold on ten acres of, land designated for development by NASA;
  5. Prepared and secured approval of a revised Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan;
  6. Prepared development sites for new construction;
  7. Selected Boston Properties as project developer and collaborated with Boston Properties to initiate development of Cambridge Center.

During Rowland’s 18-year tenure as the CRA Executive Director, what had once been a 43-acre urban eyesore was cleared and improved with infrastructure making the land immediately available for development of the reuses designated by the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan. The CRA guided the Kendall square Urban Renewal Project through difficult periods fulfilling Cambridge City Council’s original objectives: (1) to provide land for private development which would generate tax revenues and employment opportunities for the City of Cambridge and (2) to secure maximum federal funds to finance implementation of the redevelopment plan.

In 1982 Rowland left the CRA and Joseph F, Tulimieri was appointed the CRA Executive Director.

A Blessing in Disguise

When NASA decided to withdraw from the Kendall Square area, the feeling in the City of Cambridge was that the project had been delivered a tremendous setback because it had lost
its major developer. As it turned out, despite the development delays caused by the withdrawal, it was a blessing in disguise because an additional 10 acres of land could be disposed of as recommended by the ULI panel “for an optimal type of development that will reflect the highest and best use of the land, thereby bringing the greatest long-range benefit to the Cambridge community”. The 10 acres plus the 14 acres already designated for private development became a 24 acre site large enough to create a critical mass for high-tech development which would attract additional high tech development in the rest of the Kendall Square area and the eastern sector of Cambridge.

The combination of (a) the presence of MIT ; (b) Technology Square, which included Rogers Block, a CRA urban renewal project containing 4.5 acres of land located west of the Kendall Square Project, started in the 1960’s and developed by Cabot, Cabot and Forbes in partnership with MIT and (c) decisions by the Whitehead Institute and Biogen in 1982 to locate in Cambridge Center were key elements leading to the emergence of high-tech development in the Kendall Square area, and providing the impetus for major technology and biotechnology development in the eastern sector of Cambridge. From the 1980’s Cambridge Center experienced an acceleration of biotech development until the City of Cambridge declared a building moratorium in 2000. After the moratorium additional development consumed virtually all of the land designated for development in the original boundaries of Cambridge Center.

As a result, within a 1 mile radius of the Kendall Square Project, there are over 80 biotechnology firms. One observer noted that “officials at the world’s top research institutions (came to) view Kendall Square as a neighborhood with its own peculiar identity, a place where scientists can meet to discuss angiogenesis or algorithms over a beer or dine next to a Noble laureate”. (Woolhouse, “Making a High Tech Mecca”, Boston Sunday Globe, June 26, 2011).

To date, virtually all of the original 24 acres of the Cambridge Center project have been developed. The project initially anticipated development of 1.4 million sq. ft. of gross floor area with a valuation of $250 million. As of late, the project achieved development of around 3 million sq. ft. of gross floor area with a valuation of $650,000 million, generating $13 million in real estate property taxes and 6,000 jobs.

In 2001, market conditions and local public policy directed the CRA to focus on housing involving further development of Parcel 1 of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project.


POSTSCRIPT

Rowland’s contributions to the success of the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project and Cambridge Center were substantial, but scarcely recognized. For example, in the Nowiszewski Plaza located next to the Marriott Hotel are two plaques. One plaque entitled “A Tribute to the Members of the Cambridge City Council” contains the names of Cambridge City Council members who served during the development period of Cambridge Center. The other plaque entitled “In Recognition of the Efforts of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority in the Development of Cambridge Center” contains the names of all the people who served as members of the CRA Board starting with Paul R. Corcoran, Chairman, 1957-1960, 1967-1970, and going through to Charles C. Nowiszewski, 1976-1985. The only name on the plaque associated with the CRA outside of CRA Board members is that of the present Executive Director and Secretary who succeeded Rowland, the CRA Executive Director from 1964-1981. This is an omission that deserves to be corrected. The plaque should read:

Robert F. Rowland
Executive Director and Secretary 1964-1982
Joseph F. Tulimieri
Executive Director and Secretary 1982-present

Footnote:

During Rowland’s tenure as the CRA Executive Director, the CRA carried out redevelopment operations which helped to improve and stabilize the Wellington-Harrington Urban Renewal Area by (a) working with property owners to rehabilitate their properties by providing construction advise, arranging financing, and enlisting support from Just-A-Start; (b) carrying out spot clearance of blighted properties, such as junk yards; and (c) providing cleared land for construction of housing, and public and private improvements.

The CRA has informative reports pertaining to its activities in the Wellington-Harrington Urban Renewal Area.

June 18, 2012

Ready for Summer Break – June 18 City Council Agenda Highlights

Ready for Summer Break – June 18 City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s meeting is the last regular meeting before the City Council takes its summer vacation. There will be a Roundtable meeting next week (June 25) with the School Committee and the Superintendent of Schools on how the City’s Five Year Financial Plan will impact the School District’s building renovation plan. The next voting meetings will be the Midsummer Meeting on July 30 and the Regular Meeting on Sept 10. There are also two potentially consequential committee meetings coming up – (1) Government Operations & Rules this Friday, June 22 at 10:00am "to have an initial discussion with the City Manager to develop a comprehensive short and long term succession plan." (Ackermann Room); and (2) Ordinance Committee on Wed, June 27 at 4:00pm "to continue discussion on the petition of Forest City/MIT…" (Sullivan Chamber). [There’s also a Tues, June 19, 8:00pm Planning Board hearing on the Forest City/MIT petition.]

The Gov’t Operations Committee meeting will be the initial meeting on how things may proceed as we look ahead to Bob Healy’s retirement a year from now. There have been no public indications to date about the process or of the inclinations of any individual councillors (though it’s likely that some are already plotting to call the shots).

The Ordinance Committee meeting could bring some excitement as activists respond to real and perceived threats to the "livability" of the greater Central Square area. At least one new ad hoc organization (Cambridge Residents Alliance) has already sprouted in response to the proposed 165 ft. residential tower that had been proposed adjacent to the Central Square fire house. There is a somewhat delicious irony to housing activists being agreeable to the commercial construction and opposed to the housing construction, but I suppose the devil is in the details. The provisions in the proposed zoning amendment that would have permitted the residential tower were taken out at last week’s meeting, but the general alarm has already been rung and the reaction will continue. Perhaps the most significant aspect to the public reaction is the perception that the Forest City/MIT proposal is just the first of a wave of "upzoning" proposals that will steamroll their way from Kendall Square up Main Street and through all of Central Square. The activists are saying that nothing should be approved until the ongoing Goody/Clancy study is completed, but most indications are that the central recommendations from that study will be for density, density, and more density. The activists are also calling for a one-year moratorium on all upzoning petions. Perhaps the activism would be better spent on formulating alternative proposals instead of simply saying NO in every imaginable form.

We learned at last week’s meeting that our Budget Director, David Kale, will be leaving to become Town Manager of Belmont. Not only will Belmont be gaining a great fiscal manager, they’ll also be gaining a great baseball man – one of many on the City Manager’s team. Perhaps Belmont should be required to send us a "player to be named later" to complete the deal.

Another big news item in Central Square was the announcement that the Korean grocery chain H Mart will be opening an 18,000 sq. ft. grocery market in Central Square in the space previously occupied by The Harvest (14,500 sq. ft.) plus an additional 3,500 sq. ft. next door. I’ve been advocating for a Super 88 store for this location, so this is a very good move, in my opinion. It is probable that this will be a relatively affordable grocery store in contrast to the Whole Foods trend of overpriced food which has sent many a Cantabrigian over the Somerville line to Market Basket. The property owner (Morris Naggar and 3MJ Realty) may have earned some serious good will with this lease. The new grocery store is expected to open early next year after extensive renovations.

For tonight’s City Council meeting, here are a few items of interest:

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the City Council Petition to Modify Zoning Requirements for Municipal K-8 School Sites (Proposed Section 5.54).

This zoning change will facilitate the renovation/reconstruction of the proposed middle schools (grades 6-8) that are at the center of the "Innovation Agenda". The Planning Board recommends the zoning change with the caveat that language be inserted to ensure the retention of publicly enjoyable open space. The zoning petition will presumably be moved to a 2nd Reading and be eligible for Ordination at the July 30 Midsummer meeting (when several zoning petitions may come to a vote).

Manager’s Agenda #12. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the CJUF III Northpoint LLC Zoning Petition to Amend Section 13.700.

The Planning Board recommends adoption as proposed, saying "the proposed changes have been carefully crafted and developed in close consultation with neighbors and City officials, and the Board believes that these changes will only further improve the final development from what was previously proposed." The North Point development may actually start to take shape in the next few years.

Lincoln watershed landCharter Right #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the purchase of 53.6 acres of watershed land in Lincoln, MA, for $1,152,247 from Community Preservation Act Open Space Reserve Fund, for the purposes of drinking water supply protection and land conservation.

The land in question is a combination of wetland and buildable land along Route 2 in proximity with the Hobbs Brook – a principal water source for Cambridge. The brook flows into the Hobbs Brook Reservoir (near the intersection of Route 2 and Route 128) which then joins the Stony Brook before flowing into the Stony Brook Basin not far from Brandeis University. The water supply then travels via aqueduct to Fresh Pond. The argument is made annualy that Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds should only be used for open space acquisition within Cambridge city limits, but if watershed protection is not part of the preservation of community then I don’t know what is. The money can come either from CPA funds or from the water ratepayers, but these are just two different pockets. Nothing prevents the City from acquiring other open space as part of the regular budget process.

Charter Right #2. That a Task Force be formed to review Cambridge’s current program to creatively encourage and maximize participation in PILOT agreements with the City, and to evaluate the possibilities of implementing SILOT (Services In Lieu of Payment) and/or GILOT (Grants In Lieu of Payment) programs.

This matter was discussed briefly last week. There are certainly some possibilities here, but efforts to compel tax-exempt property owners to contribute additional money and/or services to the City opens a rather large can of worms. Should churches be compelled to contribute the "the state"? The intended target may be hospitals and other technically nonprofit institutions such as Mount Auburn Hospital, but ultimately this is something that might best be accomplished via good will rather than ordinance.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council with an explanation of what processes and procedures have been instituted to help ensure that discrimination and wrongful termination complaints do not arise in the future.   Councillor Kelley

Committee Report #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Chair of the Finance Committee, for a public hearing held on June 11, 2012 to discuss an appropriation of $11,917,462 from Free Cash to the General Fund Law Department Travel and Training (Judgment and Damages) account which appeared as Agenda Item Number Fifteen of Apr 23, 2012.

This is an example of the worst kind of "faux righteousness." For better or worse, the Monteiro case and other claims have been settled and the litigants have received their ransoms – significantly more than their continued employment would have generated. The City administration has repeatedly made clear that policies are now in place to prevent the kinds of problems alleged in those lawsuits. Councillor Kelley wishes that the City Council and the City administration should now profusely apologize for infractions real or imagined in addition to the settlements – even though most settlements like these include provisions that both parties do not acknowledge wrongdoing. It’s difficult to understand what exactly Kelley is trying to accomplish. The matter has been settled and little is to be gained from continuing to stir the pot.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with relevant City staff, to include the City Clerk’s Office, to determine how best to put direct communications to the City Council on the City Council’s website to make the information contained in them readily available to the public even though it does not become part of a particular City Council agenda.   Councillor Kelley

This specifically refers to communications from the City administration in response to City Council requests for information. Other than simple informal requests, one might have been led to believe that this information is always part of the City Manager’s Agenda, but apparently this is not the case. It seems that any request for information passed by majority vote at a public meeting should have a response that is also included in the proceedings of a public meeting of the same body, or at least be available for public inspection at the City Clerk’s Office. There are many communications that don’t properly belong in the public arena, but this should not include a response to a request voted at a public meeting as long as it is practicable to do so.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to refer the matter of a ban on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants to the Cambridge Public Health Department for a recommendation.   Mayor Davis

Nanny government at its very worst. Note that our good Mayor is proposing a BAN, not just a limitation. Does the Mayor know that chocolate cake also contains sugar? Shall we ban chocolate cake? Will Mayor Davis lead a march on Toscannini’s to demand that ice cream be driven out of Cambridge with the same zeal that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland?

Note: This Order was amended at the meeting to better reflect Mayor Davis’ intention:
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to refer the matter of a ban on to limit the size of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants to the Cambridge Public Health Department for a recommendation.   Mayor Davis
Amended; Referred to Community Health Committee – Decker

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Assistant City Manager for Community Development to have a 3-D model created of all potential development projects resulting from zoning petitions.   Councillor Decker

Isn’t this the same as Councillor Decker’s Feb 13 Order #12 that received this very reasonable response last week? Pay attention, kids.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations and Rules Committee, for a public hearing held on June 5, 2012 to review the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s (CRA) relationship with the city, how the CRA was set up and who is the CRA’s governing body.

This was an informative meeting with plenty of history and perspective. The newly reconstituted CRA Board is a great group with a skilled executive director and legal counsel. It will be interesting to see what role the CRA plays in future plans in and around Kendall Square. Still unknown is whether the CRA will settle solely into a maintenance role and eventually phase itself out, or possibly find a new role to play either in the Kendall Square area or elsewhere in the city. – Robert Winters

May 21, 2012

Passing the Budget and the Shape of Things to Come – May 21, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Passing the Budget and the Shape of Things to Come – May 21, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

The FY2013 General Fund Budget [$454,384,460], the Water Fund Budget [$14,144,080], and the Public Investment Fund [$21,277,065] will be approved this week along with final votes on 5 loan authorization orders totaling $17,442,670 to cover various public works projects. That’s the Big Stuff. In addition, there are a few other items sure to attract some interest from the councillors and the public.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-61, regarding a report on implementing a Buy Local policy.

To the Honorable, the City Council:

In response to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-61, regarding a report on implementing a Buy Local policy, please be advised that the procurement of goods and services is controlled by State Law, MGL Chapter 30B. This statute does not permit the granting of preferential treatment for businesses in local cities or towns.

I am extremely skeptical that the Legislature would enact an amendment authorizing such a preference due to the potential "balkanization" impact.

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

There has been a fair amount of agitation from several councillors to adopt some sort of local preference for City purchasing. They’re not going to like this response and will likely quote statutes from other states to justify the worthiness of the concept of giving local preference. This, however, is Massachusetts and Chapter 30B is fairly restrictive in what cities and towns can and cannot do when it comes to purchasing and awarding contracts for goods and services. The Manager’s statement about "balkanization" could just as easily be applied to periodic efforts to require residency for City jobs. The taxicab industry, on the other hand, is solidly located in the Balkans. A Boston cab picking up a fare in Cambridge (or vice-versa) could spark all-out war.

Charter Right #2. That the City Manager is requested to instruct the Acting City Solicitor to prepare draft language to the Municipal Code that will increase the fines for violations to the dog ordinance and refer said language to the Ordinance Committee. [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Kelley on Order Number Thirteen of May 14, 2012.]

This was Councillor vanBeuzekom’s late Order from last week that was appropriately delayed by Councillor Kelley. The Dog Lobby can both bark and bite and there’s a good chance that some of them will come barking in opposition at this meeting. Seriously, proposing changes in fees via a late Order with no public notice is very bad move.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Law Department and report back to the City Council on the current status of the Inlet Bridge and steps the City can take to ensure that agreements with the Commonwealth are upheld.   Councillor Toomey

I have a place on my shelf at home for City reports and plans for projects that never materialized. There’s the well known stuff like the Inner Belt, but there’s also the rapidly disappearing "Urban Ring" plan for public transportation, the pedestrian walkway that was supposed to be suspended from the back of the Museum of Science garage to reconnect the fabulous walkway behind the Museum that looks out over the Charles, and perhaps now the less consequential "Inlet Bridge" designed to create another means of access to the new NorthPoint Park and the brand-new bridge over the RR tracks to Charlestown. Maybe it’s time we pulled some of these plans off the shelf and put them back on the table for a fresh look.

Elsewhere in town, the newly reconstituted Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) will have their first meeting Monday evening at the same time as the City Council meeting. Up at Harvard, if you haven’t yet heard of the plans for the space between Harvard Yard and the Science Center above the tunnel, you may want to check it out. Major rejuvenation of the tunnel structure will commence after Commencement. The redesigned plaza will lose most of its greenery but promises to become a significant new civic space – not just for Harvard.

Meanwhile, we are getting close to the day when the Kendall and Central Square Goody/Clancy advisory committees communicate their thoughts on their respective Squares. It appears that the Harvest Market in Central Square will soon disappear or have to relocate into another (smaller) space. Mega-profit plans for the Naggar property, well-wrapped in red ribbons from political friends, are moving forward hungrily awaiting zoning changes to allow significantly greater density. Densification is the latest craze – quite the contrast from the wave of downzoning proposals that were common a decade or so ago. Further down the street, proposed plans for a 165 foot residential tower next to the Lafayette Square fire station and another 145 foot tall proposed building in the 300 block of Mass. Ave. are receiving their first taste of pushback from a wary public. – Robert Winters

April 9, 2012

Well-Appointed – April 9, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Well-Appointed – April 9, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Tonight’s meeting features several notable appointments by the City Manager. The first is this:

Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to the appointment of Nancy Tauber as the Executive Director of the Cambridge Kids’ Council effective Apr 24, 2012.

I cannot imagine a better choice to head this agency. I have often wondered what exactly the Kids’ Council does – primarily because most of what I think it should do is already managed in the Dept. of Human Services Programs, the School Department, and elsewhere. If the theory is that all this child-centered programming should be coordinated within the Kids’ Council, then there’s been a big gap between theory and reality. The addition of Nancy Tauber as Executive Director is a great step forward to realizing what this agency is supposed to be about.

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, requesting City Council confirmation of members of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board in accordance with Chapter 121B of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Though any complaints about the delay in making these appointments are entirely valid, the quality of the four appointments to the CRA certainly make up for this. Joining state appointee Barry Zevin will be (pending City Council approval) Margaret Drury, Kathleen Born, Chris Bator, and Conrad Crawford. Recently retired City Clerk Margaret Drury and former City Councillor and current architect Kathleen Born are stunningly good choices. Based on the credentials of the other two gentlemen, they also seem to be excellent choices.

April 9, 2012
To the Honorable, the City Council:

In accordance with Chapter 121B of the Massachusetts General Laws, I am submitting the following names for City Council confirmation as members of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Board.

D. Margaret Drury, 1-year term to expire April 12, 2013:
Margaret is the recently retired City Clerk, former Executive Director of the Cambridge Rent Control Board and an Attorney.

Chris Bator, 3-year term to expire April 12, 2015:
Chris is an Assistant United States Attorney serving in that role since 1990. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant to the Commissioner of Health and Hospitals in Boston and as Executive Assistant to Mayor Kevin White.

Conrad Crawford, 4-year term to expire April 12, 2016:
Conrad is presently the Director of Partnerships for the Department of Conservation and Recreation and has experience in energy efficient transportation products. He is a resident of East Cambridge.

Kathleen Born, 5-year term to expire April 12, 2017:
Kathy is an Architect and former Cambridge City Councillor. She co-chaired the Ordinance Committee, and is thus very familiar with the zoning process. The State appointment term expiration would occur in 2014.

Since this recommendation results in a reconstruction of the Board, my recommendation results in staggered terms with one member’s term expiring in each of the five years. Subsequent appointments would be for 5-year terms.

Very truly yours, Robert W. Healy, City Manager

Though the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is most known for the redevelopment of the Kendall Square MXD district, the CRA in the past played a major role in housing development in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood and elsewhere. It is certainly possible that the CRA could again take on that role elsewhere in the city.

Applications & Petitions #2. An application was received from Cambridge Housing Authority requesting permission for a curb cut at the premises numbered 7 Temple Street; said petition has received approval from Inspectional Services, Traffic, Parking and Transportation, Historical Commission and Public Works. No response has been received from the neighborhood association.

This is the first sign in a long time that the proposed Cambridge Housing Authority residential project on the site of the long-abandoned YWCA pool on Temple Street may at last be moving forward.

Order #2. Urge greater cooperation from the Cambridge Housing Authority to better serve the people of Cambridge.   Vice Mayor Simmons and Councillor Cheung

This is a very long-winded Order that on the one hand could be interpreted as a statement of exasperation by city councillors at the nonresponsiveness of personnel at the CHA. On the other hand, the age-old practice of elected officials delivering CHA housing to constituents could be the basis of this Order. Should elected officials be actively placing individuals in public housing? Considering the political implications of providing such an economic benefit to potential voters, one might argue that all housing placements should be done objectively without any political influence. It’s very hard to read between the lines of this Order to discern its real intent.

Order #3. That the petition to amend the Zoning Ordinance to add to the Special Dimensional Regulations a Special Regulation for Municipal Elementary and Middle (K-8) Schools be referred to the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee for a hearing and report.   Councillor Maher

This matter was introduced at the end of the last Council term as a necessary step in the planning for future school reconstruction. The delay in choosing a mayor and in appointing the Council subcommittees pushed this matter back, but it will now move forward with Ordinance Committee and Planning Board hearings.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department and other relevant departments in order to present to the City Council a map of Cambridge that shows, by location and by date, all of the areas where construction is and will be taking place over the coming decade.   Vice Mayor Simmons

An initial read of this Order suggests some kind of mystical powers within CDD to peer into the future. Some projects are definitely in the planning stage, but it’s doubtful whether CDD could accurately state where and what will be built more than a couple of years into the future. Even the dense-pack proposals now being crafted by Goody Clancy as part of the Kendall Square/Central Square (K2C2) Study may not be realized anytime soon, if ever.

Order #8. That a one-time suspension of Council Rule 23B be allowed, for the broadcast of the Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 4:00pm Cambridge City Council Roundtable Meeting (a meeting to receive an update from Goody Clancy and the Community Development Department on the Kendall Central Study.)   Councillor vanBeuzekom

None of the recent Kendall Square and Central Square studies and its related committee meetings, with and without the red ribbons, have involved much in the way of community participation. Indeed, the Red Ribbon report from last year seemed disconnected from much of the discussion that took place at the various minimally publicized meetings leading up to the report. It’s doubtful that broadcasting the April 25 Roundtable meeting (no public comment allowed) will do much for either public awareness or involvement.

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the City Solicitor’s Office, the City Auditor and the Community Development Department to explore the City of Cambridge’s relationship with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and any of its current and future development projects.   Councillor vanBeuzekom and Vice Mayor Simmons

The time is certainly right for evaluating the past, present, and possible future role of the CRA. This should not, however, delay the City Council from approving the four persons appointed by the City Manager. After the newly reconstituted CRA Board meets and gets organized, it might be a good time to have a City Council Roundtable meeting with the CRA Board and its Executive Director. – Robert Winters

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