90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:

MIT Hopes For A New Kendall Square

When you hear “Kendall Square,” chances are you don’t think of a bustling neighborhood filled with shops, dining and entertainment. If planners at MIT have their way, however, you might in a few years.

MIT hopes to transform Kendall Square from a cold, business-like environment into a popular neighborhood with a vibrant mix of outdoor cafes, retail stores, office space, and housing. You can see and hear parts of the proposal above.


  • Micahel Owu, director of real estate, MIT Investment Management Company
  • Steve Marsh, managing director, MIT Investment Management Company
  • Sarah Gallop, co-director, government and community relations, MIT
  • Charlie Marquardt, board member, East Cambridge Planning Team

Other stories from this show:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Bill Hubbard

    MIT should have thought of these issues when they were planning the Koch Cancer Center– and given it NOT that blank corridor along Main Street, rather commercial spaces opening onto the sidewalk.

  • Webb Nichols

    To guarantee life in Kendall Square, one must consider much greater densities of housing directly adjacent to the areas where one is planning to revitalize street life, shopping, eating and entertainment. Remote housing has not real model of success.

  • Heather Cole

    came too this ‘way too late. I understand MIT will be at the Planning Board tonight, but is there a link to the plan that I can forward to my East Cambridge-located family members?

  • http://www.paulhorn.com Paul Horn

    Planners should take a look at the areas that have the vibrancy they’re hoping to bring to Kendall Square and analyze what makes them work–it’s a different kind of neighborhood of course, but look at Davis Square in Somerville, for example–what I’ve always considered an urban neighborhood success story–one that offers a mix of housing, retail, professional services, entertainment venues, great public transportation access, etc.–a fun, economically functional place to be (without, I might add, the pretensious airs of its wealthy Harvard cousin). As you follow this story, I hope you’ll make a point of inviting some of the faculty and students from MIT’s own School of Architecture and Urban Planning to join the discussion.

  • no name

    Way to go government radio!!! Once again a developer wants to take over a sizable area of a city. So who do you have as your guest “analysts”? The MIT spin dudette, two MIT real estate dudes and the east cambridge spin dude who advocates for all devlopment in east Cambridge.

    government radio!!!! Brings us all points of view!!!Not in anyones pocket!!!!!

    Don’t forget to ask us to give you money. After all, we can’t expect MIT to entirely subsidze its paid infomercial.

  • http://www.wbur.org/people/aragusea Adam Ragusea


    I’ll address your concerns in the order in which they appeared:

    1) I’m not sure I would characterize MIT’s redevelopment of parcels it already owns as a “takeover.” A takeover of what? Indeed, they’re requesting a zoning variance, but that is subject to a political process over which they have no direct control.

    2) Who called Sarah Gallop, Steve Marsh, or Michael Owu analysts? They are newsmakers, and we interviewed them as such.

    3) I’m not so sure that Charlie Marquardt advocates for all development in East Cambridge. He struck us as a thoughtful, involved guy with a nuanced point of view, not entirely in sync with MIT, so we invited him on.

    4) Between Ken Reeves, Charlie Marquardt, Henrietta Davis, the MIT folks, et al, I think we presented a pretty complete range of the informed opinions out there. Exactly what do you think we left out?

    5) I don’t think any journalists at WBUR are in anybody’s pocket, and I am certainly not in MIT’s. If you want to talk about it, call me at my office, 617-358-1722.

  • cantabrigian urbanist

    Creating successful urban spaces isn’t about naively overpopulating architectural renderings with people and banners -it requires a thoughtful urban alchemy. A few thoughts + observations:

    1. the proposed building footprints are huge.
    2. MITIMCo is proposing demolishing the last few remaining buildings that contribute to a reasonable pedestrian scale and create an authentic sense of place.
    3. After 5 this place will be a desolate wasteland unless significant residential programs are added.
    4. urban retail requires tremendous 24hour-population densities to have any chance of success. Current adjacent population densities will not make for profitable retail.
    5. introverted urban plazas tend to siphon energy and people FROM the streets. I don’t think this is what you want to do.
    6. If MITIMCo is truly interested in creating a healthy vibrant Kendall Sq you must broaden your team to include residential and retail developers.
    7. The current study seems to merely sugarcoat another batch of massive sterile lab buildings. Hooray MIT!

  • http://www.rideside.net/blog/conorclockwise Conorclockwise

    This is terrible. Aside from the standard rendering gimmicks (street shots with tons of people, sunny days, busy cafes) they also just widen the image: “Look at the before picture… now look at the proposed picture,” which is just 30% wider.

    This reeks of spin, proposals from people who want to get something done by code variances, yet no input from residents and no plans for more future residents.

    Can we get a real urban planner up in this piece?

  • Dana Peters

    There are definitely some positive aspects to this plan: for those of us that already work in Kendall Square, there are no places to run errands at lunch and not many options for meeting up with friends or having a drink with coworkers at the end of the day. There should definitely be a dry cleaner, a pharmacy, a store where I can pick up some groceries, maybe a gift shop or a hardware store.

    Not sure if MIT can pull it off, but since most of the land in that section of Kendall is already a wasteland of ugly buildings and parking lots, they should be given a chance to try.

  • Ryan FitzPatrick

    It sounds like the MIT plan could be a good opportunity to get two important things done – keep companies interested in Kendall Square (and therefore making Cambridge a better place to live by adding to the commercial tax base) and actually make Kendall Square a part of Cambridge with shops, restaurants and other interesting things located
    near the T station. Obviously, the proof is in the pudding, but why do we always assume that just because a large organization is promoting an idea it is going to be bad for the city?

  • Amanda

    I’m a former MIT student and a current East Cambridge resident who has spent a lot of time envying Harvard Square. Kendall is am embarrassment in comparison and I have long wished for a unique, desirable place to go to and pass time close to home. While I am very glad MIT sees that Kendall has the potential to be a beautiful, cultural place, I am skeptical as to whether MIT could actually pull it off. I’ve read (granted, in an MIT published paper) a story about how an MIT owned building had rent which was prohibitively high to allow very desirable retailers to open a store there, and I could just imagine them not using the retail space to it’s fullest potential. I believe the need to improve and urbanize Kendall square is unquestionable, but I think these proposals need to be more thought out before I’m convinced that MIT will actually push Kendall in the right direction. While I do like the architecture of the new buildings (Broad, Koch, and the Media lab nearby), It lacks a sense of community and openness which someone else mentioned in a previous comment. I will be completely overjoyed when the day comes that Kendall is a fun, lively, interesting place. For now, it’s just the place I go when I want to go somewhere else.

  • Stephen Pettibone

    This is just another urban redevelopment plan that flips real estate for profit – in this case, profits for MIT. It tosses a few crumbs to the city in order to get the OK from the city council to approve this vast redevelopment that will benefit no one but MIT, and turn the Kendall Square wasteland into a bigger wasteland.
    No one should mistake MIT for a benevolent non-profit organization that just wants to “make things better”.

  • Kelly Brilliant

    Putting aside all the politics, something needs to be done about the industrial-looking and feeling wind tunnel that is currently that entire area. Harvard Square is much different because it as an entirely different look and feel–warm, intimate space. It follows that the type of school MIT is would have to dial back its worst tendencies, I think, to consciously make its space more people-friendly and inhabitable. It has to do with scale of buildings and general warming up of the environment through greening the landscape, store fronts that actually look like stores, cosy restaurants, etc.

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

  • Listen: Weekdays, 3 p.m. on 90.9 FM
  • Live Call-In: (800) 423-TALK
  • Listener Voicemail: (617) 358-0607
Most Popular
This site is best viewed with: Firefox | Internet Explorer 9 | Chrome | Safari