Foundry redevelopment process is halted, with call for refinements on a second try
The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority halted the redevelopment process for the Foundry building Wednesday, effectively opening the door to start over again on the project. Board members voted unanimously on the motion.
In addition to ending the current procurement process for a developer, the decision called upon the city manager, the Foundry Advisory Committee and members of the public to work with the agency to develop a new strategy to move forward.
The decision to stop the process comes after months of intense City Council and community debate. Councillors, community organizations and residents expressed concerns about the proposal selected at the conclusion of the first request for proposals, in which Graffito SP, the Cambridge Innovation Center and Hacin + Associates – joined as Kendall Square Foundry Development Partners – was the only submission.
The 37,500-square-foot Foundry, at 101 Rogers St., was deeded to the city in 2012 as part of a development zoning deal that specified “a preference for its use for municipal or community uses.” It could take around $25 million to revitalize the East Cambridge building, but only $6 million was set aside in May 2015. The Partners’ plans within that funding didn’t match up to community expectations.
Now those plans are canceled, though residents have said that if there were to be a new process, the Partners would be strong contenders for the CRA to select.
“I don’t think this is the conclusion that either party wanted to reach,” said Tom Evans, executive director of the agency. “It’s not that CIC/Graffito did anything wrong in the process, and I certainly don’t think we did anything wrong in the process, but … it certainly did not help to only have one bid. In any procurement, it’s good to have other bidders. So that may have been a sign that we were creating a very difficult situation.”
The termination of the process means the city can now designate additional funds and develop new parameters for the project. Adding funds during the procurement would have automatically triggered a new request for proposals, disrupting the Redevelopment Authority’s work.
“The city has been very respectful that this is the CRA’s process and [of] the desire to let the process play out,” Evans said. “That being said, I think the sense is the process is ours, and it’s a little stuck.”
Board members described the initial procurement process as a productive learning experience. Ideas were discussed for next steps, such as emphasizing science, technology, engineering, arts and math functions in the reformulated call for proposals, offering additional design guidance and in general refining the RFP to speed up decision-making. It would be helpful to have “a little upfront work before going out again – to have that more defined so we don’t have that debate on program on the back end,” Evans said.
Evans and Kathryn Madden, strategic planner for the agency, suggested the importance of maintaining connections to the private sector, both to manage redevelopment costs and because it could lead to “something a bit more dynamic” than what an exclusively public-run building might accomplish.
Many members of the board expressed concerns about public expectations compared with what a redeveloped Foundry might realistically be able to accomplish. With all the community expectations in the first round, it was “really hard to get a definitive handle on the program for it,” said Kathleen Born, chairwoman of the board.
Similar issues could affect the second try, said Margaret Drury, vice chairwoman. “We heard a lot of deep divisions in the public” during the first procurement, she said. “There really needs to be some work on that if we want to have a successful second process.”
Though the agency expressed optimism, there were doubts whether factors contributing to the low rate of submissions to the first RFP were changeable. “The private sector didn’t flock to this project – partly because of the financing, but partly just because it’s so hugely political, and it’s only going to be more political,” Madden said. “As some of our advisory committee reminds us, capital has other choices of where to go.”
During the meeting, board members discussed briefly the recent petition to initiate a landmarking designation study for the Foundry, which was built in 1890 and expanded in 1910. Some expressed concerns on additional delays this might add. Born suggested the agency not offer a stance on whether the building should receive landmark status, though she noted that such a designation does not necessarily require the full restoration of the building.
Peace and Sanity Be Unto You,
I went on record several times in the past at city hall condemning the Foundry Building initiatives as a prescription for disaster. Now it is once again proven that I was right in my predictions. Look at the growing circumstance involving it now. It is a disaster. What has so far been done with the public funds and tax payer’s money infused into the Foundry Building dilemma? The former city manager Richard Rossi and the city council made a mistake in choosing the option, among the 5 or 6 they had to work with, in bringing on the Cambridge Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in securing it goals for the Foundry Building. It allotted somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million dollars to start the conversion, now the city council, CRA, and the Foundry Building Advisory Committee want the city to start the conversion of the Foundry Building over again from scratch, still with the exclusion of the homeless sector and mosaic, this is disastrous.
The Foundry Building debacle and fiasco from day one has always been in violation of homeless rights, as they pertain to the Federal Urban Renewal Act, and other federal mandates that pertain to the inclusion of the homeless sector and mosaic. The homeless segment of our community has been exclude and neglected, from there rights by the City, the CRA, and the Foundry Building Advisory Committee.
The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) is a direct and indirect, spawn of the Federal Urban Renewal Act, that was, and is expanded to included homelessness initiatives. But unfortunately the CRA is in defiance and neglect, of these federal mandates, and so has been the former Cambridge City Administrations that brought on the CRA, to execute its goals at the Foundry Building, that are currently excluding the homeless from the conversations, discussions, and federal protections for the homeless sector and mosaic, as it pertains to the Foundry Building and homeless and civil rights.
Future Foundry Building conversations and discussions should be prepared to address homeless and civil rights as they pertain to the Federal Urban Renewal Act, etc, in the Kendal Square District, and else where in the City of Cambridge, MA.I still feel that it is not to late for converting it, the Foundry Building into homeless poverty social housing, especially with the second year of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) kicking into first gear in January 2017, and the recent Housing and Urban Renewal (HUD) allotment of $4.1 Million dollars, etc., for local homelessness initiatives, being added to the City Treasury of Cambridge, MA making revenue resources available for this kind of poverty effort.
I still feel that the local/regional homeless sector and mosaic, hold the greatest of community rights to have their social housing needs addressed at the Foundry Building.
Finally, in good faith the city policy makers and administration shouldn’t fail in the future to began to look at whether the Foundry Building is fit to be renovated and repaired, to be used as homeless housing, and if so, make way for homeless housing. Also that the official parties involved in the future Foundry Building conversations and discussions, keep the homeless sector and mosaic, in the future city master planning, etc, equations.
Yours In Peace,
Mr. Hasson J. Rashid