Volpe project is preparing for the design phase | MIT News


Ten years after starting a comprehensive process to reinvent the 14-acre Volpe plot in Kendall Square, MIT has a Cambridge-approved master plan and is preparing to advance specific design proposals for mixed-use development. Getting to this point required a thorough public review, which led to the city’s approval for a rezoning of the site and special permits which will govern the “look and feel” of the development of eight buildings.

In addition to the design process, a final step in creating this vibrant neighborhood will be the Institute’s completion of the new federal facility that will house the headquarters of the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center on four acres of the site. Once the new complex is handed over to the federal government in 2023, MIT will begin developing the remaining 10 acres of the plot, as per the Institute’s agreement with the US General Services Administration.

“We are delighted to be reaching this pivotal moment as part of Project Volpe,” said Glen Shor, Executive Vice President and Treasurer of MIT. “We are also very grateful to our colleagues in the city and the community of Cambridge for their continued collaboration and critical comments during the proposal process. This revitalized plot will be a significant addition to the local innovation ecosystem by increasing the city’s housing stock and providing many benefits to all who live and work in Cambridge.

The project

MIT’s master plan will transform the Volpe plot into a vibrant residential, recreational and commercial center including:

  • approximately 1.7 million square feet of laboratory, research and office space;
  • approximately 1,400 residential units, including 280 affordable permanently subsidized units;
  • more than 3.5 acres of open spaces useful to the public, including four parks;
  • a 25,000 square foot community center, including the MIT Job Connector which provides career development services to residents of Cambridge;
  • a place of music and entertainment, and;
  • retail and active street uses along Broadway, Broad Canal Way and throughout the site.

Michael Owu, managing director of MIT’s real estate group, is the lead for the Volpe redevelopment project. “The final combination of uses will serve both employees, students, city residents and visitors,” he says. “There will be something for everyone and dozens of reasons people want to come to the site. Retail, entertainment and cultural offerings alone will be a very strong draw. “

The project will include leading practices in sustainability and resilience. For example, MIT has committed to:

  • develop fully electric residential buildings – and therefore eliminate fossil fuels on site;
  • offset the built-in carbon of construction and annual operational carbon emissions;
  • installing a state-of-the-art wastewater recycling system – and therefore reducing the consumption of drinking water, and;
  • raise the entire site to an elevation of 21.4 ft (expected rise of the 2070 centennial flood).

The most recent project presentation can be found on the Volpe project website.

Benefits for the wider community

As part of the process to secure the necessary development rights for the project, MIT has agreed with the city to provide the following significant community-wide benefits:

  • the creation of approximately 280 affordable housing units;
  • approximately $ 36 million in required contribution to the city’s affordable housing trust;
  • design and construction of a community center and endowment to support its operations;
  • approximately $ 8.5 million for transit improvements to reduce vehicle traffic;
  • approximately $ 8.5 million in required contribution to a city community fund to distribute to Cambridge nonprofits;
  • cession of land rights and contribution to the creation of the Grand Junction community trail;
  • the launch and operation of the Job Connector by MIT;
  • innovative arts and related programs;
  • programming of open spaces for four parks;
  • technical, financial, legal and / or logistical support for retailers, including minority and women owned businesses, and;
  • 950 new graduate student beds on the MIT campus as part of the zoning agreement.

In addition, the project will contribute approximately $ 23 million annually in property taxes on properties currently tax exempt.

Equity and inclusion at the heart of the project

A central feature of the project planning process was how to make development as equitable and inclusive as possible. This desire spawned a series of seven workshops focused on the community center, retail, employment, youth, working with nonprofits, open spaces and housing.

Five hundred members of the Cambridge community contributed to the multiple conversations and helped create a comprehensive framework for equity and inclusion. Almost every element of the Volpe plan has been impacted by this process and the results are manifested in the details of the open space, operational and logistical practices and the retail development planning process.

“We wanted to understand what would truly create equity and inclusion,” says Sarah Gallop, co-director of government and community relations at MIT. “We focused on how housing can be operated inclusively, on the types of retail and active uses that will celebrate Cambridge’s diverse community, on how MIT’s Job Connector can help residents to find employment and about the types of open space programs that will maximize inclusion. and participation. We are indebted to all who participated in this crucial effort.


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