Saturday, July 20, 2024

Volpe parcel construction is underway in Cambridge’s Kendall Square on Aug. 6, 2019. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The needs of innovators in Cambridge have changed since plans for the Volpe parcel were set in Kendall Square, and on Thursday the Planning Board acknowledged it with relief for Mitimco, the real estate arm of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At the 14-acre parcel made possible by the shrinking of the federal Volpe transportation center – specifically Volpe Planned Unit Development 7, between Broadway and Binney Street – requirements “were based on characteristics of innovation space from approximately 10 to 12 years ago, when innovation space was an emerging concept that consisted almost entirely of short-term leases or agreements for single workstations and small-footprint offices co-located within larger office premises,” Mitimco’s John McQuaid said.

Officials from MIT argued that while many companies start in Kendall, growing companies tend to leave. Changes such as allowing one company to take up as much as 35,000 square feet, up from 20,000, would provide the flexibility necessary for growing companies to remain in the area and expand their businesses, Mitimco said. Leases should also be longer as needed – up to five years.

Since Volpe plans were locked in October 2017, “MIT alone has created approximately 600,000 square feet of what can be considered innovation space in Kendall Square,” McQuaid said. Since then, tracking relied on by MIT shows that approximately 48 lab companies graduated from incubators – and only 12.5 percent stayed in Kendall Square or East Cambridge.

The Planning Board approved the minor amendments for the PUD meant to attract midsized, growing companies.

MIT has also filed designs for one of the Volpe parcel buildings, a 16-story building at 25 Broadway. It would be a mixed-use lab building with 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and include plans for a Third Street Park of less than an acre.

Other development news

  • Boston Pinnacle Properties and Boston Lab Services submitted a master plan for a 10-story lab building at 45 Mystic Ave., near Assembly Square in Somerville, now ABJ Auto Repair, the real estate platform BldUp reported. The lab will include 2,044 square feet of arts and creative enterprises space on the ground floor, with the bulk of the building – 23,004 square feet – going to research and development, according to public documents. In its Sept. 7 meeting, the Planning Board approved a requested continuance by the applicant.
  • Somerville’s Planning Board continued a discussion around 7 Washington St., near Union Square, for a proposed four-story, 10-unit apartment building by Wash Dev2 LLC. The dwelling would include one three-bedroom unit, four two-bedrooms, four one-bedrooms and two studios. Two units would be designated as affordable. Jahan Habib, elected clerk at the meeting, asked about accessibility in the building due to its lack of elevator. Developers said the ground-floor units – one of which is the three-bedroom – would be accessible. Chair Michael Capuano praised the approach: “This is one of the very few three-bedroom units that I’ve seen proposed, so I just want to give you some props for that. We really do need some more truly family-sized housing.”
  • Cambridge’s Planning Board continued a design-update discussion on 57 John F. Kennedy St., Harvard Square. The site was previously approved by the board to add 38 housing units to an existing commercial space. The update seeks to improve the JFK Street entrance to the building – the other entrance being at 80 Winthrop St. – by straightening an angled entrance and placing it closer to the street. After some discussion Thursday, board members agreed they wanted more input from the Historical Commission, which was partially concerned about the scale and setback of the entry and wished to see additional renderings.