Letter: Why A Better Cambridge welcomes MIT’s Kendall Square plan

As residents working to build a better Cambridge, we welcome the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kendall Square zoning petition and see it as a productive contribution to socially and economically responsible development in our city. While we thank MIT for the strong housing and community benefit components included in the petition, we expect future MIT development proposals will show a similar commitment to promoting affordable, mixed-use neighborhoods in Cambridge. On balance we believe the petition promotes sustainable growth towards a more diverse and dynamic Cambridge.

The presence of MIT in Cambridge and significant institutional/laboratory development in Kendall Square creates overwhelming housing demand in our community. With this petition MIT makes a strong contribution to increasing the supply of affordable housing in Cambridge with a plan that includes residential development consistent with the recommendations of the K2 committee. We are pleased that the plan addresses the acute need for affordable housing targeted to a range of income levels in Cambridge by reserving a significant percentage of units for middle-income residents in addition to the low-income units required by inclusionary zoning.

We believe that the community fund provisions included in this petition provide important benefits to the neighborhoods most affected by Kendall Square development, as well as giving neighborhood groups a strong voice in determining how those funds will be used. We consider workforce development to be the most critical component of the community benefit package to ensure that all Cambridge residents have the opportunity to participate in the groundbreaking research and innovation produced in Kendall Square. We anticipate that the proposed Community Funds Committee – with representatives selected by neighborhood groups including the East Cambridge Planning Team, Wellington-Harrington Association and Area IV Coalition – will direct funding to workforce development, open space and transportation projects of greatest need in and around Kendall Square.

The Kendall Square Advisory Committee and other recent planning initiatives in Cambridge have encouraged the growth of vibrant, transit-oriented communities where people can live, work and play. We believe this petition reflects those goals by placing new housing in close proximity to the Kendall Square MBTA station, while proposing enhanced retail corridors along Main Street, Broadway and Broad Canal. The MIT petition will improve pedestrian access on these thoroughfares in combination with existing successful efforts to expand transit use and biking in Kendall Square.

The benefits of this petition notwithstanding, we feel it is critical that MIT continue to demonstrate a long-term commitment to building vibrant and livable neighborhoods while addressing the housing, transportation, and other public needs their presence in Cambridge creates.

We support the MIT petition because we believe it promotes sustainable growth in Kendall Square with many potential housing, community and economic development benefits for our community. We recognize the steps that MIT has taken to ensure the petition reflects neighborhood priorities and recommendations of K2 advisory process.

Jesse Kanson-Benanav, chairman, and Yoni Appelbaum, Randa Ghattas, Esther Hanig and Saul Tannenbaum, leadership committee
A Better Cambridge

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