Sunday, June 23, 2024

David Dixon, principal-in-charge of planning and urban design for consultant Goody Clancy, speaks April 11. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The plan for Kendall Square getting a 4 p.m. hearing today at City Hall leans heavily on a block-sized park and surrounding construction on what is now the federal John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. But considering the firm has been eyeing it since a plan it laid out in 2001, what makes consultant Goody Clancy so sure land will be available?

Political pressures put the idea firmly in the realm of the possible, said David Dixon, principal-in-charge of planning and urban design for Goody Clancy. He expects to see the land become available within five or six years, no matter who wins the White House this year and Congress in the next midterm elections.

“It’s an opportunity for the Democrats and ideology for Republicans,” Dixon said April 11 during a break overseeing a forum his form was running on the future of Central Square.

“The Republicans are very clear on saying they believe the government should dispose of property whenever possible and let the private market compete,” he said, explaining why the roughly 7.5 acres in the heart of Kendall Square were likely to go on the market to be secured for Cambridge. For Democrats, he said, it just makes no sense for an agency intent on creating the future of smart transportation to hang onto a building and underused parking lot rather than move the government’s 550 direct employees and 500 “on-site contractor employees” into smaller, more efficient and less costly buildings.

Volpe is “a dinosaur,” Dixon said, and developers have already approached the government about taking over the land.

Now it’s time for the Cambridge and Massachusetts legislative delegations to step in and start lobbying for a smart reuse, he said — which they should be happy to do to ensure the square mile of technological innovation that is Kendall Square remains the economic engine for the state.

In renderings shown by Goody Clancy, the park is shown as replacing the sprawling Volpe parking lot between Potter and Binney streets, sparing the recent construction housing Voltage Coffee & Art and Abigail’s Restaurant but tearing down and replacing other nearby buildings to add space for some of the anticipated 2,000 to 2,500 new housing units, up to 3 million square feet of office and research space and, at ground level, between 200,000 and 250,000 square feet of retail. The park was described as being a focal point and crossroads for the community.

“Cambridge really does need this to be done. It’s running out of space,” Dixon said. The study in “2001 was ‘When this happens, we want a large park. Today, for a lot of reasons, it’s ‘This has to happen.’”

“Everybody should work together to make it happen,” he said.