Sunday, June 23, 2024

BioMed’s Sal Zinno talks with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, center, and Isabel Acuña of BioMed on Wednesday at a former gas transfer station site in Kendall Square. (Photo: BioMed Realty)

A piece of Kendall Square history was demolished Wednesday that no one will miss: a gas transfer station at 330 Third St. that was complicating construction of a gleaming BioMed Realty life-sciences tower with ground-level arts and community spaces.

The $49.5 million sale of the 0.32 acres by NStar Gas, a subsidiary of Eversource, had an April 7 closing date, BioMed said. The demolition of the decommissioned station five days later was attended by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and Cambridge assistant city manager for community development Iram Farooq as guests of BioMed senior vice president for development Sal Zinno.

It means a Third Street where visitors don’t go from the salads and bowls of Dig to the pastries and cakes of Tatte by walking past a grubby, fenced-in compound of pipes, vinyl-sided cabins and gravel – what Zinno once called the “ugly, hissing monster” in the way of a unified site.

The station will get moved to 364R Third St., a “backyard” space also known as 21 Athenaeum St., according to a July 2021 presentation by BioMed to the Board of Zoning Appeal.

An Eversource gas transfer station remains on Third Street, a relic of an older Kendall Square. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Moving the gas transfer station is “the last piece of the puzzle in executing our planning goal of a vibrant and complete Third Street,” Farooq said.

BioMed broke ground Oct. 26 – without this final component in place – on the structure known as 585 Kendall, which is expected to be finished in 2026 with 615,000 combined square feet for the life-sciences firm Takeda and the new 585 Arts, which has responsibility for programming a 400-seat theater and 150-seat stage in a lobby with year-round garden; and a commons around it that will include a bar, cafe and giant screen suitable for World Cup watch parties.

The total cost of the tower isn’t shared; the public and arts space has been valued at $55 million by BioMed.

Tech philanthropist Glenn KnicKrehm had promised a grand concert hall at 585 Third St. since the 1990s. Ultimately he sold the lot after long delays saw construction estimates soar to $300 million or higher during decades of research into acoustics.

BioMed bought the site – itself a fenced-in gravel pit – in August 2018 for $50.5 million as part of its 10 acres now known as the Canal District. Then began 18 months of study and public outreach to come to a new proposal for the 35,865-square-foot lot at Kendall and Athenaeum streets.

The company once hoped for an opening in 2024, but work was slowed by the Covid pandemic.

Getting the station off Third Street wasn’t easy either. In 2020, talking about plans to build 585 Kendall, Zinno said that “the first thing I did was walk into Eversource” with a plan to move it, “and they laughed at me.”

Residents weren’t laughing. Chuck Hinds, president of the East Cambridge Planning Team, said in 2021 that there were several reasons they wanted to erase this reminder of the area’s industrial past: “Its distinctive appearance comes with the stink of the natural gas it carries, the hissing sound that emanates which disturbs abutters and the continuing danger of explosions that would affect the tens of thousands of people who now live and work in the area and flock to the amenities that were unimaginable back when the GTS was originally installed.”

“The relocation site is a much more isolated, industrial and appropriate place for this use,” Hind said. The end of its equipment life cycle and years of negotiations between BioMed, Eversource and the East Cambridge community “have presented us with a rare opportunity to accomplish this important goal for the neighborhood.”