Saturday, June 22, 2024

Kendall Square could see another 1,400 dwelling units and 1.7 million square feet of office, research and development accompanied by ground-floor retail as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology redevelops the federal government’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Center facility.

MIT presented its intentions today in a noon meeting on its campus. It agreed to pay $750 million for the parcel last month, and estimated a “maximum total price” to design and deliver the new federal facility at $510 million.

Steve Marsh, of MIT’s investment management company, speaks Thursday. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

The replacement Department of Transportation building will be sited on the northwest corner of the Volpe parcel, bounded by Binney Street and the Sixth Street walkway. The new building and its surrounding green space buffer will occupy about four acres of the 14-acre parcel, and will take four to five years to construct, said Steve Marsh, in charge of real estate for MIT’s investment management company.

Presented by architect David Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi, the institute’s conceptual plan calls for eight additional buildings – four residential and four commercial – after the federal building is complete. The buildings will range between 135 and 500 feet tall, and there will be more than three acres of “publicly beneficial open space,” of which at least two will be contiguous: a broad green corridor through the site next to an extended Fifth Street. That is in addition to the green space on the federal parcel.

MIT anticipates 40 percent of the site will be devoted to housing; along with at least 1,400 dwelling units will come some 280 designated as affordable housing, following the city’s anticipated 20 percent inclusionary housing set-aside rate.

Marsh said it was early in the process, but the team working on the conceptual plan for the area included Elkus Manfredi Architects and local Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand landscape architects. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the architect for the federal parcel, and Marsh said the firm would also work on the larger site. “We will certainly have their perspectives on how the hand and the glove fit together,” he said, naming SOM’s lead for the project as Mustafa Abadan out of its New York office.

Marsh said he anticipated more information being released in the next few months, if not more quickly.

City councillor Dennis Carlone praised the overview, saying “The tone was absolutely right. Given all the parameters, it’s a good start.”

But O. Robert Simha, former director of MIT’s Planning Office, sounded a note of caution about the team. Referring to Manfredi, “Just look at the stuff he’s done. Well, that’s what they do. And then you look at other people and you can see, there’s a difference. He’s one of a classic category of commercial architects.”

The institute was definitely the highest bidder for the parcel, said Joe Maguire of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, calling its $750 million offer “high enough that it really put it out of reach for someone that is looking for return on investment. MIT is doing this irrespective of rate of return.”

As a footnote, Marsh said that the institute would also be buying the Red Cross building at 139 Main St., next to the existing One Broadway parking garage, which will be the site of a new Main Street building. MIT intends to use it for office space, Marsh said.