Councillor Carlone calls for preservation of Open Space in Kendall Square

Volpe_Open_Space_Carlone_K2.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order that seeks to preserve a long-awaited opportunity to create a public park as part of the redevelopment of the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Kendall Square.

For many years, Cambridge residents have been told that continued growth in Kendall Square would someday be offset by a significant provision of open space on the Volpe site. The only thing that was unknown was when, exactly, the U.S. General Services Administration would move to consider proposals for the 14-acre parcel, which currently includes a large surface parking lot.

Then last August, the federal government posted an RFI to begin the process of redeveloping the Volpe site. And in December, city planners unveiled an initial zoning scheme — one that would reduce the future amount of public open space on the site, from a 7.5 acres (as originally planned), to just 2.5 acres. In a memo to the Planning Board, it was suggested that the 7.5-acre park might "constrain development opportunities" on the site.

In response to the proposed zoning, members of the East Cambridge Planning Team voted unanimously last month to oppose the loss of the public park. "The greater the number of people working and living in that area, the more important open space becomes," their letter to the Planning Board says.

Meanwhile, according to the Boston Globe, major real estate developers are eager to bid on what has been described as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to add to the growth of the life sciences industry in Kendall Square.

The above image was produced as part of the city's K2C2 planning study and depicts a conceptual rendering for a large public park on the northern edge of the Volpe parcel. While helping lead that study in 2012, planner David Dixon stated that "the proposed park at the Volpe site is going to be the heart of Kendall Square before too long."

Councillor Carlone's order was on the agenda for this evening's city council meeting, which has now been cancelled due to the snowstorm. This order is now expected to be discussed at the council's next regular meeting on Monday, February 23, at 5:30 pm in the CRLS/Attles Meeting Room, 459 Broadway.

The full text of the policy order appears below...

City Council Office
 Policy Order Resolution  
  February 2, 2015



As Kendall Square continues to experience remarkable growth and transformation, it becomes increasingly important to nurture the public realm, and as even greater density is proposed, it should be complemented by significant public open space; and


In 2001, the City's Eastern Cambridge Planning Study recommended a large park on the site of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in Kendall Square; and


Subsequently, the city council adopted zoning to require a 7.5-acre public park as part of any future redevelopment of the Volpe site; and


Over the years, as individual proposals for new development and greater density have been considered, residents have relied on the expectation of a future provision of a significant open space on the Volpe site; and



City Staff recently presented an initial rezoning proposal for the Volpe site to the Planning Board; the new proposal would reduce the required public open space from 7.5 acres to just 2.5 acres; and


On January 14, 2015, members of the East Cambridge Planning Team voted unanimously to reaffirm their desire to preserve the full amount of required open space on the Volpe site; and



While the Connect Kendall Square design competition is likely to yield additional ideas for the allocation of open space throughout the area, residents nevertheless expect the City to honor the commitment for a park on the Volpe site; now therefore be it

ORDERED: That the City Manager work with all relevant City Staff to revise the proposed zoning for the Volpe site to include an option for a 7.5 acre public park as originally planned; and be it further

That the City Manager report back to the council on this matter.

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