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Cambridge Redevelopment Authority Making Room For Startups, Affordable Housing

Now that Cambridge, long an engine for innovation and startups, is a real estate superstar, commercial rents have escalated beyond the reach of many young firms. Office rents are among the highest in the region and most new housing is luxury with little for mid- and low-income users. But the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is pushing to diversify, especially around Kendall Square, through zoning and incentives, says Executive Director Tom Evans, who will be a speaker at our Future of Cambridge event.


For decades, the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority has been a major force in the Kendall Square market and in ‘79, Boston Properties was a private sector pioneer when it developed Cambridge Center. Now, the Redevelopment Authority is working with the developer to diversify property types with more housing and ground-level retail, Tom tells us.

It’s encouraging the development of underused parcels, often only occupied by a parking facility or old, low-rise building. Recently, it championed new Kendall Square zoning that allows an additional 1M SF of development and requires that 40% be residential, including 25% geared for low- and moderate-income households. Tom would like to see some construction start next year, he says.  


At 101 Rogers St sits the old Foundry Building, which could be converted into space for startups, innovation companies and artists, Tom says. (Above: an early informational tour.) The Redevelopment Authority also is proposing a project at Binney Street and Broadway where the North Garage stands. Meanwhile, the MIT Management Co (MITIMCO) is likely to secure a final permit this month for 1M SF of new development around the Kendall Square T stop. By year-end, the federal GSA may select a developer for the Volpe Transportation building.


Boston Properties is using a “muncher” to tear down part of the garage at 88 Ames St to develop its residential project. This makes way for a $140M, 200k SF building with 9k SF of retail and 280 apartments. Of those, the city requires that 36 units be rented at below-market rates. Many will be occupied by knowledge-based workers at growing Kendall Square enterprises.

Going forward, more attention is needed for midsized space users; startups that have grown and middle-income households that can’t afford the high Cambridge rents or even find space in the filled-up market. “We need a foothold for the midlevel,” says Tom.

He and the other expert panelists will have lots more to say at Bisnow's Future of Cambridge event, July 26 at Boston Marriott Cambridge. Register here.