Thursday, May 23, 2024

The final candidate for a $350,000 consulting role in reshaping the city, Goody Clancy, was approved Monday by the City Council.

The 100-person Boston firm has had a hand in institutional work throughout the nation and region, including crafting the strategic plan for Harvard University’s expansion into North Allston.

City Manager Robert W. Healy suggested appropriating the funds by transferring equal amounts from a one-time increase in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s payments in lieu of taxes and “project mitigation” fees paid by Boston Properties. The developer of Kendall’s 24-acre Cambridge Center complex is working on an 18-floor building there that requires a change in Cambridge zoning laws. The institute has proposed a 1.1 million-square-foot complex of retail, office space, classes and labs and some residential space at the city’s gateway to Boston.

A Jan. 13 request for proposals for a consultant to weigh in on these projects — and much more — brought 10 responses by Feb. 3, which was winnowed to four finalists for final interviews, Healy said in a letter to the council. Goody Clancy ranked highest.

“They’ve been made aware that they will have to not  just hit the ground running, but sprinting at breakneck speed,” Brian Murphy, assistant city manager for Community Development, told the Planning Board at its Tuesday meeting.

The firm has been briefed on the city projects that are under way, Murphy said.

Last month, some city councillors called the need for a consultant an implicit criticism of Murphy’s department. After serving as a councillor for seven years, Murphy quit in 2009 to work for the state, but Healy hired him to run Community Development in early February.

There was no sign of acrimony as the vote came about though, with councillor Ken Reeves — the board’s leading voice on redeveloping and refocusing Central and Kendall squares — saying simply, “God, it’s great to be able to start.”

Noting the long-standing problem of Kendall emptying after business hours, Reeves said, “We don’t need a study for that. We need a solution for that.” And while he worried that Goody Clancy might not be “edgy” enough to craft a Kendall Square for the future, he said Healy’s work in choosing a developer for the award-winning Cambridge Main Library was encouraging.

“You hit it out of the ballpark,” Reeves told Healy.

The council vote was 8-0, with councillor Craig Kelley missing after more than three hours of a meeting that was still early its agenda.

Residents and George Metzger, an architect and president of the Central Square Business Association, expressed support for the consultant during a public comment period, with East Cambridge’s Mark Jaquith hoping that Goody Clancy’s role would expand to encompass other developments and zoning questions throughout the city.

This post was updated to reflect the votes and comments made Monday.