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Volpe Site Rezoning

Main building at Volpe Center

CDD continues to plan for the future redevelopment of the Volpe parcel in Kendall Square, as recommended in the Kendall Square ("K2") Plan.

The City Council adopted MIT's zoning petition for the Volpe parcel on October 23, 2017. This petition established the PUD-7 Zoning District (Section 13.90 of the Zoning Ordinance), enabling the redevelopment of the site and incorporating a set of commitments to be fulfilled by MIT as conditions of the future redevelopment.

The next phase in the development process, apart from the design and construction of a new Volpe Center facility for the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be the preparation and submission of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) Master Plan for review and approval by the Planning Board.

Additional information on the zoning petition can be found under the tabs below, on the Zoning Amendments page, and on MIT's Volpe web site at volpe.mit.edu.

The Volpe Parcel

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is one of Cambridge's largest employers. It sits on a 14-acre federally-owned parcel of land that has seen little change in over 45 years, and its current design has little connection to the surrounding area. Redevelopment of the Volpe site presents a rare opportunity to reimagine this part of Kendall Square for the future.


MIT Zoning Petition (2017)

MIT, jointly with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), submitted a zoning petition proposing to create a new PUD-7 overlay district containing provisions that would govern the redevelopment of the Volpe parcel. The City Council adopted this zoning petition on October 23, 2017, establishing the PUD-7 district and incorporating a Letter of Commitment from MIT describing additional public benefits to be provided in association with the future redevelopment of the site. 

The PUD-7 district, as adopted, includes the following provisions:

  • Up to 3.25 million square feet of total development, with residential uses making up at least 40% of new development (aside from the replacement of the existing Federal government facility).
  • Inclusionary housing requirements resulting in about 280 units of affordable housing.
  • Publicly beneficial open space on at least 25% of the parcel (aside from the portion to be retained by the Federal government), with at least 2 acres serving as publicly accessible park space.
  • Building heights of up to 250 feet, increasing to 350 feet in limited circumstances, and up to 500 feet for no more than one building.
  • Maximum limits on parking, with no set minimum requirements.
  • Sustainable design and development standards.
  • Required retail and active space at ground floors.
  • Required "innovation space" for smaller companies and start-ups.
  • A required community space to provide public recreation and/or programming.
  • Required funding contributions toward transit, the City's community benefits fund, and the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.

MIT's Letter of Commitment includes support for the following additional public benefits:

  • Construction of the planned multi-use pedestrian/bicycle path along the Grand Junction rail corridor on land currently owned by MIT.
  • Creation of at least 20 units of middle-income housing.
  • Funding to support the community space, a job connector program, innovation arts program, and community events.
  • Increasing on-campus housing capacity for an additional 950 graduate students.

Detailed information can be downloaded from the Zoning Amendments web page.

Volpe Working Group Meetings

The Volpe Working Group held its most recent meeting on Thursday, August 17, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to continue discussing the MIT zoning petition.

Developer Selection

The GSA announced that MIT has been selected as its exchange partner to construct the new Volpe Center and develop the remainder of the site. MIT held community meetings in February, 2017 to begin discussing its future planning process. Information from that process can be found at volpe.mit.edu

Volpe Working Group Formed

As part of the City’s continuing effort to plan for the future redevelopment of the Volpe parcel, the City Manager has appointed a “Volpe Working Group” consisting of residents of the surrounding neighborhoods – East Cambridge, the Port, and Wellington-Harrington – along with representatives of the Kendall Square business community and other community stakeholders. The following members have been appointed:

  • Peter Crawley (Resident: East Cambridge)
  • Gerald O’Leary (Resident: East Cambridge/Kendall Square)
  • Esther Hanig (Resident: Port/Area 4)
  • Steven LaMaster (Resident: Wellington-Harrington)
  • Chris Barr (Business: Biogen)
  • Brian Dacey (Business: Kendall Square Assoc. and Cambridge Innovation Center)
  • Kathy Born (Cambridge Redevelopment Authority)
  • Hugh Russell (Planning Board)

CDD staff and consultants from Michael Dennis Associates, a planning and urban design firm, will be providing support to the group.

The purpose of this working group is to develop an urban design framework and planning principles to provide guidance to potential developers about the City’s priorities and expectations for the site. The group will focus on broad program parameters including urban form, public realm, and goals for the character of the area, and address issues including but not limited to the amount of and type of housing, including affordable housing, size and character of public open spaces, urban design principles, key connections through the site, retail, and ground floor activation. This work will build on the Kendall Square (“K2”) Planning Study, conducted in 2012‐2013, and the zoning discussions that occurred at the Cambridge Planning Board and City Council over the past two years.

The initial issues and recommendations raised by the Volpe Working Group will inform the City Council’s Ordinance Committee, and will precede a more detailed and focused planning and zoning process involving the Working Group, Ordinance Committee and Planning Board that would occur after the GSA has announced its selected development partner for the site.

Information and materials from past Volpe Working Group meetings can be found under the "Materials" tab.

Zoning Petition Hearings (2015)

A rezoning petition was submitted by the Planning Board and hearings were held between June and December, 2015. The most recent hearings were held on the following dates:

  • Planning Board hearing: Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 7:00 P. M. at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Second Floor. (View CDD Update Memo)
  • Ordinance Committee hearing: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 5:30 P. M. at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave, Second Floor.
  • Planning Board hearing (continued): Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 8:00 P. M. at the City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Second Floor.
  • Ordinance Committee hearing (continued): Tuesday, December 1, 2015, 5:30 P. M. at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave, Second Floor.

The following materials reflect the latest version of the zoning proposal with suggested modifications from CDD staff:

Original Petition Documents:

Outreach

CDD conducted a series of conversations throughout the summer and into the fall to discuss the proposal and gather feedback. The outreach events that were held are listed below.

Community Forum

  • Saturday, October 17th, 2015, 10:00 A. M. - 12:00 P. M. at the Kennedy-Longfellow School, 158 Spring St (Rescheduled from Monday, August 17th) - View Agenda

Previous Drop-In Conversations

  • Thursday, July 30th, 2015, 5:00 P. M. to 7:00 P. M. at Windsor Street Health Center (119 Windsor Street)
  • Wednesday, August 5th, 2015, 5:00 P. M. to 7:00 P. M. at Rogers Street Park (Rogers St / Third St)
  • Wednesday, August 12th, 2015, 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P. M. at Lafayette Square (Mass Ave / Columbia St / Main St)
  • Saturday, August 15th, 2015, 2:00 P. M. to 5:00 P. M. at Greene Rose Park (Harvard St / Moore St)
  • Thursday, August 20th, 2015, 11:00 A. M. to 2:00 P. M. at Kendall Square Farmers’ Market (350 Kendall St)
  • Saturday, September 12th, 2015, 12:00 P. M. to 3:00 P. M. at Clement Morgan Park (Columbia St / Washington St) – Participating as part of The Port, Community Pride Day event
  • Friday, September 18, 2015, 9:00 A. M. to 4:00 P.M, "Park(ing) Day" at Broadway and Ames Street

Staff is happy to meet with community groups (residents, businesses, or other) who would like to talk about the rezoning proposal. Please contact us to arrange a visit! Send us an email at volpe@cambridgema.gov.

Planning Background and Goals

The "K2" component of the Kendall Square Central Square ("K2C2") study process, completed in 2013, envisioned new zoning to enable a redevelopment of the Volpe parcel, along with other sites in the heart of Kendall Square, to achieve the following goals:

  • Transformation of the site from an isolated, stand-alone facility to a vibrant, mixed-use urban area that is inviting to the community
  • A mix of residential and commercial uses, with requirements for housing and affordable units
  • Active uses along ground floors, including retail and other uses that engage the public
  • Public open space that supports community connectivity, interaction, reflection and play
  • Innovation space for start-ups and small companies
  • Standards, guidelines and a public review process to promote urban design and sustainability
  • Contributions to fund open space, transit and workforce readiness programs
  • An improved Volpe Center as a public presence within Kendall Square

In 2015, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) initiated a competitive process to seek a development partner to construct a new facility for the Volpe Center in exchange for the rights to redevelop the remainder of the parcel. This process resulted in MIT being selected as its development partner in 2017. Find more information on that process under "Federal Process" tab.

Also in 2015, the Planning Board and City Council discussed a potential rezoning of the PUD-KS district, where the Volpe parcel is located, in 2015. Find materials from the initial rezoning process under the "Materials" tab.

In 2016, the City formed a Volpe Working Group to further discuss community objectives for the site, resulting in a set of Planning and Design Principles in 2017.

In 2017, the City Council adopted the PUD-7 zoning district to govern redevelopment of the Volpe parcel, following a petition from MIT. See Zoning Amendments page for additional information.

  • PUD-KS District Aerial View
  • PUD-KS District Zoning Map
  • Volpe Site Aerial Perspective
  • Volpe Site Context Map
  • Main building at Volpe Center

MIT Rezoning Process (2017)

See Zoning Amendments page for materials.

Volpe Working Group (2016-2017)

Final Planning and Design Principles Document (July 20, 2017)

Meetings:

Planning Board Rezoning Process (2015)

As part of the initial review of the rezoning proposal, CDD staff prepared digital 3D models illustrating conceptual massing scenarios based on the zoning requirements. These conceptual studies do not reflect any actual development plans.

The digital model files are available for download at the link below. They were prepared using Rhinoceros 3D modeling software.

Related Processes

  • 2011-2012: K2 Plan and Design Guidelines (part of K2C2 Planning Study) - studied and made recommendations to guide future development in several parts of Kendall Square including Volpe area, MIT, Cambridge Center (Urban Renewal Area), Broad Canal Area
  • 2014-2015: Connect Kendall Square - planning and design competition to create a framework plan for open space in the Eastern Cambridge and Kendall Square area, with a goal of promoting a unified network of public spaces

Volpe Site Exchange Process Information

In 2015, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced that a competitive process would take place to select a development partner ("exchange partner") to construct a new building for the Volpe Center and then develop the remainder of the site according to the City's zoning. GSA is aiming to select an exchange partner in 2016.

In 2017, MIT was formally selected as the selected developer for the site. Additional information from MIT is available at volpe.mit.edu.

Please contact us with questions, thoughts and suggestions!

volpe@cambridgema.gov