Consultants sought on future of Kendall/Central

City of Cambridge in process of hiring firm to plan redesign of the two local squares

The City of Cambridge is seeking to hire a consultant team to run a “comprehensive urban design and planning study for the Central and Kendall Square area.”

Released last Thursday, Cambridge’s request for proposals (RFPs) has already garnered interest from 23 potential bidders, including 16 firms from the greater Boston area and 2 from Toronto.

The project will:

• “Focus on the many current plans that are in varying states of readiness with a view towards creating as much synergy as possible among them.”

• Look for missing opportunities within and between the squares.

• Define processes for reviewing and implementing these changes.

Bids are due to the city by February 3. The RFP says the consulting project, once awarded, “may take up to a year,” though it hopes to proceed “as expeditiously as possible.”

There are two phases to the project. Phase A focuses on Kendall Square, and Phase B focuses on Central Square. Both phases also deal with the “transition area”: Main Street, from Kendall to Massachusetts Avenue. They will also involve coordination with the separate standing advisory committees for the two squares.

Phase A: Kendall

In Phase A, the study will look at MIT’s emerging zoning proposal; the Cambridge Center buildings; Cambridge Research Park, which has built 5 of 8 planned buildings; the Alexandria project on Binney Street, which is in pre-construction; traffic changes at the intersection of Third, Broadway, and May; and will also examine housing opportunities.

MIT has not decided how it will adjust the timing of its zoning proposal in response to the study, according to Michael K. Owu ’86, a director of real estate for MITIMCo. “MIT intends to respond to the city study by sharing our ideas and actively engaging in the process,” Owu said in an e-mail.

Also in Phase A, the study will address concerns in the transition area: Novartis’ new building in the Analog Devices lot; and across the street from it, the development of the north half of the block containing Random Hall, managed by Forest City, the developers of University Park.

The RFP notes that Forest City’s development, which is in conjunction with MIT (which owns half of the property), will “require new zoning.”

Peter Calkins of Forest City said that Forest City hopes to extend the University Park zoning district one block closer to Mass. Ave. If not approved, Calkins said, the retail- and commercial-use building they want to construct could still be built, as it is mostly compatible with the current zoning. Calkins is the executive vice president of Forest City Boston.

Phase B: Central

The second part of the study, expected to begin in mid-summer, will be coordinated with a special city committee, the Red Ribbon Commission on the Delights and Concerns of Central Square. The Red Ribbon’s findings will be presented at the beginning of Phase B.

The RFP does not detail a long list of items for Phase B as it does for Phase A, but refers to “strengthen[ing] the heart of the square” and paying attention to housing.

The consultants will run numerous meetings during both phases: meetings with stakeholders, and also separate meetings with the public. See sidebar for details.