ABC Statement on Volpe Rezoning

A Better Cambridge broadly supports MIT’s proposal to build at least 1,400 housing units on the Volpe site. In particular, we’re excited that the plan will produce at least 280 affordable housing units – more than any other new development in the city.

Anyone who wants a more affordable  Cambridge should be  working with MIT and the community to see these new units built as soon as possible. We encourage MIT to further increase the number of housing units it will provide at the site, if at all possible.

Nevertheless, ABC has questions and concerns. (These largely stem from MIT’s presentation at the Ordinance Committee in early August.)

  1. Height + Higher Density - Given Cambridge’s tremendous need for new housing, we encourage MIT to pursue its maximum proposed building height of 500 feet. In addition, MIT should allocate any additional FAR gained towards residential development.

  2. Affordability - We encourage MIT to include people at deeper levels of affordability, such as 30% or below AMI. In addition, what are MIT’s plan to provide supportive services for the households living in below-market units?
  3. Less Parking + Better Transportation - MIT should reduce the high amount of proposed parking - which is totally unnecessary so close to the Red Line. Instead, MIT should reallocate that for transportation-related improvements and increased affordability.

  4. Additional Density - The federal building should be exempted from the FAR calculation on the site so that additional FAR can be committed to housing.
  5. Additional Environmental Benefits - The new Volpe site has the potential to mitigate climate change effects, and sustainability efforts beyond typical commitments, such as LEED. This will include tree canopy cover, water management and energy efficiency. Will MIT commit to a Net Zero project for the totality of the site?

  6. New Retail - We are excited that MIT’s plans feature interior streets loaded with retail. However, given that  MIT plans to double the retail on 3rd Street, what specifically is MIT’s plan to ensure that retail will thrive?Additionally, MIT is committing to have 25% percent local retail operators. What specifically is the plan to ensure this transpires?

  7. Corner of 3rd + Broadway - This intersection is important as a gateway to the site and requires a bold vision for the success of the entire development. What is the plan for the location?

  8. Community Space - MIT’s  plan includes a “Community Space,” as yet undefined. How will this community space integrate into the neighborhood to ensure access by all Cambridge residents, including youths and seniors? Also, how will this space coordinate its programming with the Foundry Building - a nearby city-owned building in the neighborhood, currently being redeveloped - that has a similar mission?

  9. Open space - Open spaces need to be inviting to Cambridge residents, from all walks of life. MIT must work collaboratively with the city and neighborhood groups to achieve this. In addition, who will ultimately be responsible for the site’s open space? Will it be publicly-owned, or owned by MIT?

ABC looks forward to working with MIT and community stakeholders on these issues, to ensure that this project is a win for the city and its residents.

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