Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

April 5, 2012

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area – Cambridge Redevelopment Authority

Filed under: Cambridge Redevelopment Authority,Kendall Square — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 10:30 am

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area – Cambridge Redevelopment Authority

documents provided by Joseph Tulimieri, Exec. Director, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA)

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Project/Chronology (dated February 2012)

Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan History (dated February 2012)

Report on Authority Land Holdings and Disposition Plans (dated September 1, 2011)

Background material on the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority provided at the March 22, 2011 joint meeting of the Cambridge City Council’s Neighborhood & Long-Term Planning Committee and the Economic Development, Training, & Employment Committee.

Note (Apr 5): The links are provided to give a little perspective to those who were not around when the Kendall Square MXD district was little more than vacant lots. The district is now almost completely built and is a major part of the commercial tax base for Cambridge. The staff of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) was reduced a number of years ago and its function is now primarily administrative. Though one may argue that the granting of a sign to Microsoft and the modification of a covenant for the garage rooftop garden are significant policy decisions, in the long view these are relatively minor administrative decisions.

The more important question, and the one not asked by the local bloggers, is what role the CRA should play in the future. Earlier in its history, the CRA was greatly involved in housing development outside the Kendall Square MXD district. Much of this function has been assumed in the ensuing years by the Community Development Department and the Affordable Housing Trust in partnership with both for-profit and non-profit developers. An interesting question is whether the CRA might play a role in future housing development – especially in light of some of the proposals currently being floated for the areas now being discussed in the Kendall Square/Central Square study. – Robert Winters

Update: Four new City appointments have been made to the Board of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. They join gubernatorial appointee Barry Zevin to complete the five-person Board. The four City appointees must be confirmed by the City Council.

City Manager Letter –
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


  1. Since we’ve both been around since BF&TD (Before F&T Demolition), I feel I have a pretty long view of Kendall Square too.

    The staff of the CRA has always been administrative. That’s what 121B (the State Law which enables Redevelopment Authorities) requires. 121B also requires that policies, the creation of projects and changes to previously approved projects are the sole purview of the Authority Board itself.

    The Board also has some other duties: The hiring of staff, the voting of an annual budget, and the election of officers. And, significantly for such a public body in Cambridge, it is required to do all of this as an independent peer of the City Manager, the CDD, and the City Council.

    It’s hard to argue that it’s a good thing that such an important public body be left to wither, just as the Kendall Square Renaissance, a product of its earlier efforts, continues to change and develop rapidly.

    Were it not for your efforts to keep us informed about the CRA, and the efforts of the Chronicle and “local bloggers” to bring into question how (still) important Authority decisions were being made without an actual Authority, the “new” Cambridge Redevelopment Authority appointments would never be before the City Council.

    And they look like a pretty good group.* In addition to getting the Authority back on its feet, one of the first orders of business should be to update the “Urban Renewal Plan” that 121B requires and figure out if there is still a need for their existence. Among the many powers it has under 121B, it turns out that only the CRA can ask to dissolve itself (with the City Council’s subsequent approval).

    *Full disclosure, I offered to be considered for membership too.

    Comment by Tom Stohlman — April 6, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

  2. It has been my sense for a number of years now that the CRA has been in the twilight of its active involvement in the Kendall Sq. MXD district, that its staff has been trimmed to the minimum, and that the CRA Board has been essentially irrelevant. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially if the City has a desire to promote major development in the corridor between Kendall and Central Squares and maybe even in the heart of Central Square. An independent Authority has the capacity to do things that the City itself can’t reasonably do. This is not to say that the CRA WILL play any role in this corridor, but it could. What I have found lacking in the various recent inquisitions is any focus on the future role of the CRA.

    I have been entertained by the outrage expressed by some about the CRA (really Joe Tulimieri) approving a sign for Microsoft and facilitating the plans by Boston Properties to accommodate Google. The MXD district is exempt from the restrictions in the zoning ordinance regarding building signs. No variance was required, it’s perfectly legal, and it is pretty clearly an administrative decision and a relatively minor one at that. The Google issue is arguably a bit more on the policy end of the spectrum, hence the need to reconvene (and appoint) the CRA Board. That’s being done. The garden is still there. Nothing said, written, or carried out by Exec. Dir. Joe Tulimieri in this matter has yet been consequential.

    I’ve been going well out of my way to put any information I can find about the CRA into the public arena. Though I certainly don’t refrain from expressing myself about CRA matters, I choose to not pass judgement. What I try to do is to take the long view of the history from decrepit industry to vacant lots to the hotbed of entrepreneurial activity in Cambridge. That’s a pretty damned good record, and we get the commercial tax revenue along with it. If anything, I tip my hat to what the CRA Board and Exec. Director Joe Tulimieri have accomplished over the three decades that I’ve witnessed the changes in the greater Kendall Square area.

    I’m not so sure that I agree with your timeline about “local bloggers” influencing the CRA appointments. My recollection is that the City appointments were advertised some time ago – before the sign and the garden became inflammatory topics (to some). I don’t disagree with those who feel that the City Manager should have moved more quickly on the appointments, but I’m thrilled by the appointments he has now made. I’m also happy to see Barry Zevin finally assuming the state-appointed position on the CRA Board (he was actually sworn in by Margaret Drury several years ago). I personally brought that matter to the attention of Joe Tulimieri in order to clear up any ambiguity regarding that appointment.

    So, we move on from here. With Margaret Drury and Kathleen Born and the other new appointees to the CRA Board, I think they’re now in very good hands.

    Comment by Robert Winters — April 6, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

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