The Cambridge City Council tabled on Monday a proposal from City Manager Robert Healy to allow Boston Properties, a major Kendall Square landowner, to reduce the size of a popular roof top park and put a building in its place. This move requires city council approval because the park is preserved by open space convenants into which Boston Properties entered in the 1980s. In return for the modification of those convenants, Boston Properties proposed extending the remaining convenants to 2050 and to build a park on a vacant lot owned by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. The new building would be part of Google's proposed expansion in Kendall Square.
Public comment by citizens was uniformly negative, with one speaker terming the effort as "evil". City Councilors also condemned the proposal. Councilor Timothy Toomey expressed his "disappointment" that the issue was even in front of them in this form. Both Toomey and Councilor Kenneth Reeves, who has championed a planning process underway for Kendall and Central Squares, felt the lack of a public process alone was enough to doom the request without even considering the merits. Healy responded that there was a time sensitivity to the request, though he declined to set any specific dates. Not satisfied with simply tabling the motion, Toomey introduced a late order requesting that the City Manager inform Boston Properties that the Council would not consider this request without a community process. This order passed unanimously.
The fate of the request was seemingly decided prior to the Council meeting. When Boston Properties Senior Vice President Michael Cantalupa spoke, he acknowledged that the request would be tabled.
The discussion was complicated by the uncertain status of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA). The CRA, created in the 1960s to champion redevelopment in Cambridge, sparked the redevelopment of Kendall Square in the 1980s when it transferred development rights to Boston Properties which led to the creation of the Cambridge Center project. Councilors peppered Healy with questions about the CRA, wondering how an entity whose board seats are largely vacant and whose executive director might have resigned, could agree to allow Boston Properties to build a park on their land.
The next discussion of Boston Properties' request is expected to come at a previously scheduled Kendall Square Advisory Committee on March 8th at 6:00 PM. This meeting will be held at the Cambridge Innovation Center, Havana Conference Room (5th floor), One Broadway, Kendall Square. The meeting notice cautions that one should bring an ID and provide extra time to get through security.
Disclaimer: The author is a member of the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011 and spoke against the Boston Properties proposal at Monday's City Council meeting
Images and map from City of Cambridge Geographic Information System
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