Volpe Transportation Center Development | Kendall Sq | Cambridge

bigpicture7

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From an article in today's Globe. Image credits are not tied to an architect, but rather to Interface and Design Distill, which are rendering studios. The article has little that is new.

I agree it's been somewhat disappointing to not see more of the architectural designs at this point. To-date, I think possibly the most insight we've seen from architects working on this project have been from David Manfredi's remarks in this video (beginning at the 35-minute mark) (from the October community meeting); landscape architect and others speak here as well. It's a lengthy recording.

I think we've just seen a lot of placeholders thus far. The most recent planning board presentation (here) seems to be a more concise version of what was presented in the longer video above. I don't understand the approvals process they're navigating well enough to expect when we'll get to see substantive architectural designs here.
 
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Equilibria

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I agree it's been somewhat disappointing to not see more of the architectural designs at this point. To-date, I think possibly the most insight we've seen from architects working on this project have been from David Manfredi's remarks in this video (beginning at the 35-minute mark) (from the October community meeting); landscape architect and others speak here as well. It's a lengthy recording.

I think we've just seen a lot of placeholders thus far. The most recent planning board presentation (here) seems to be a more concise version of what was presented in the longer video above. I don't understand the approvals process they're navigating well enough to expect when we'll get to see substantive architectural designs here.
I'm also irritated that the MIT News (presumably what Tim Logan was going from) refers to submitting a PNF but neither the City of Cambridge nor MIT has actually posted the document on the web. I've been checking.
 

whighlander

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I'm also irritated that the MIT News (presumably what Tim Logan was going from) refers to submitting a PNF but neither the City of Cambridge nor MIT has actually posted the document on the web. I've been checking.
Equilibria -- I've looked as well -- I can find several presentations in slides and video -- but there is no publicly available heavy duty pdf replete with a lot of words
Anyway from 2020 -- pre-submission to Cambridge conference slide show



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There is a provision for an iconic "KSq Tower" [residences]-- a slim tower topping out just shy of 500' -- perhaps over 500' above MSL including the mechanicals -- which would be unquestionably the tallest building north of Boston until you get to Canada
 

navigator4

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R3 is shown at 382" on site massing slide, where do you see a 500" tower?
 

DZH22

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The massing indicates one tower will be 382' plus mech (so likely just over 400') and 6 more will be 250' plus mech, so all likely between 270-300'. Since that's the exact same height as most of the other buildings in the area, this development should ensure that visually, overall, Kendall remains a permanent dud on the cityscape.
 

whighlander

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R3 is shown at 382" on site massing slide, where do you see a 500" tower?
I don't see a 500 foot tower in that discussion document

but I don't necessarily think that 382 feet aka 400 feet is necessarily the final word either

When all is said and done -- I'm guessing that MIT will trade something for a some more height

I'm reasonably confident of there being something very tall [for Cambridge]:
I saw something recently where some supposed insiders commented that the lure of high-priced high perched condos seems to be returning to the Boston scene​
remember that this residential tower will begin construction about the time that South Station and Winthrop are opening-up​
If they are fully subscribed at the top levels -- there will be major pressure on Cambridge to get one for itself and that this is the place to do it -- no worries about shadows on Boston Common or such​
 

DZH22

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If they are fully subscribed at the top levels -- there will be major pressure on Cambridge to get one for itself and that this is the place to do it -- no worries about shadows on Boston Common or such
Only 1 corner of this site falls under the 1000' FAA limit and not a limit ~500'. I'm pretty sure they are putting a park on that corner. The real best place to go tall would have been Constellation Center, and we're getting our normal Kendall blob clocking in at or just under 300' there. The 250' zoning may have made sense when Kendall was full of parking lots, but now that they're building a ton of buildings up to that limit it's a major lost opportunity from multiple perspectives.
 

bigpicture7

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Only 1 corner of this site falls under the 1000' FAA limit and not a limit ~500'. I'm pretty sure they are putting a park on that corner. The real best place to go tall would have been Constellation Center, and we're getting our normal Kendall blob clocking in at or just under 300' there. The 250' zoning may have made sense when Kendall was full of parking lots, but now that they're building a ton of buildings up to that limit it's a major lost opportunity from multiple perspectives.
Hey DZ, though not the height (err, aspect ratio) fanatic that you are, I share your concern about Kendall area being too monolithic and boxy. However, a few considerations: the 2017 zoning variance for the Volpe site allows one building to be up to 500', and at the last community meeting, presenters stated that all dimensions are unofficial/placeholders at this point. I agree it's not looking like the site is getting a 500' tower, however, there were concerns voiced about the negative effect of near-equal heights, so lets see if they come back with something that breaks it up better. They key point is that the 2017 approval allows for a building up to 500'. As equilibria states, above, we haven't seen a PNF yet, so something yet-seen could be coming.

The next key thing is that the proposal for the MXD "blue garage" site redevelopment right next door is proposing "up to 400' " for its taller tower, so that will help break this up too. It is literally adjacent to the Volpe site and you didn't mention it in your critique.

Lastly, you state further above "Kendall remains a permanent dud on the cityscape." Well, at least its street level is dramatically improving compared to the past several decades. In seriousness, I don't quite hold the dire view that you do. There are some aspects of the Kendall aesthetic that are proving to be quite dynamic. All told, there's still reason to be hopeful for a vibrant cityscape in Kendall, and at least an interesting and punctuated, though short, skyline.
 

DZH22

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Lastly, you state further above "Kendall remains a permanent dud on the cityscape." Well, at least its street level is dramatically improving compared to the past several decades. In seriousness, I don't quite hold the dire view that you do. There are some aspects of the Kendall aesthetic that are proving to be quite dynamic. All told, there's still reason to be hopeful for a vibrant cityscape in Kendall, and at least an interesting and punctuated, though short, skyline.
Thanks for the detailed and thought out reply. I was referring to its visual effect on the cityscape as a whole. I think North Point is actually the worst offender here due to its location essentially feeding into the North Station area. I can't stand the way the Seaport looks where it partially blocks/ruins the skyline from certain angles, but it's necessary due to the flight paths. I don't think we should be developing the rest of the city in that style of short, wide, monolithic buildings.

Just to hammer home how important I find some height, how would the city as a whole feel if it didn't have the Hancock and Pru? How about even did have them, but they were cut in half, so 395' Hancock and 375' Pru (ie comparable to Westin, Copley Marriot, etc)? Those are just 2 buildings, but the Back Bay would have felt much more backwater and the city as a whole substantially less imposing over the last 40-50 years. That's the difference 2 bold buildings can make to an entire city. Somebody really needs to go into all these meetings with the FAA map and say "let's target something better for here, here, and here!"
 

fatnoah

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Well, at least its street level is dramatically improving compared to the past several decades.
Circa 2007, my daily commute was to take the Red Line to Kendall from Charles/MGH, walk to the day care at the former Lotus building, and then walk to Harvard Square for work. At the the time, there was a whole lot of "nothing much" happening. Pedestrian traffic was fairly minimal and there were almost no places to stop for a bite or coffee outside of the immediate vicinity of the Red Line Station.

Fast forward to today, and there are far more pedestrians and places to stop to grab a bite before or after work. The area feels much more alive. It is a dramatic improvement overall, but I do agree that it could be better. Right now, it feels like a better version of what we got in the seaport (where I worked in 2004 and speaking of places that changed). It is a little more human-scale on the streets, but the lack of height and newness of everything does give it a bit of a high-end office park feel.
 

whighlander

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Thanks for the detailed and thought out reply. I was referring to its visual effect on the cityscape as a whole. I think North Point is actually the worst offender here due to its location essentially feeding into the North Station area. I can't stand the way the Seaport looks where it partially blocks/ruins the skyline from certain angles, but it's necessary due to the flight paths. I don't think we should be developing the rest of the city in that style of short, wide, monolithic buildings.

Just to hammer home how important I find some height, how would the city as a whole feel if it didn't have the Hancock and Pru? How about even did have them, but they were cut in half, so 395' Hancock and 375' Pru (ie comparable to Westin, Copley Marriot, etc)? Those are just 2 buildings, but the Back Bay would have felt much more backwater and the city as a whole substantially less imposing over the last 40-50 years. That's the difference 2 bold buildings can make to an entire city. Somebody really needs to go into all these meetings with the FAA map and say "let's target something better for here, here, and here!"
DZH -- you are missing an important point
Back Bay already had the "weather beacon" Hancock tower at just under 500 feet [1947 Cram & Fergusson 495-foot (151 m)] when the plans for the Pru were just being announced [construction began in 1960]

Kendall's and surroundings tallest buildings currently are:
MIT Campus:​
Eastgate [356.96 feet (108.8 m) to be demolished]​
Cecil and Ida Green Building [295 feet (90 m) to the top of the Golf Ball]​
Ksq itself:​
Akamai Headquarters 294 feet (89. m)​
Boston Marriott Cambridge 290 feet (88.4 m)​
Proto Kendall Square 284 feet (86.6 m)​

So anything in the range of 400 feet (122 m) is tall for the KSq and would definitely stand out
Note -- Boston Properties is planning substantial reworking of the old bricks and parking garages which make up a lot of the KSq footprint -- one of those reworks is likely to be quite a bit taller than what is there already {e.g Akamai}

so I think we will see a KSq version of Chrysler / Empire State

You can take it to the bank that for Brand Recognition -- MIT will want to have the tallest building in the KSq area
that's why I think its quite likely we will see in the final incarnation of the plans for the ex-Volpe area a tower in the range of 125 m [410 feet] to 150 m [492 feet]

Maybe one of the new Cambridge fat-cats will want a penthouse overlooking everything
 
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DZH22

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Kendall's and surroundings tallest buildings currently are:
MIT Campus:​
Eastgate [356.96 feet (108.8 m) to be demolished]​
Cecil and Ida Green Building [295 feet (90 m) to the top of the Golf Ball]​
Ksq itself:​
Akamai Headquarters 294 feet (89. m)​
Boston Marriott Cambridge 290 feet (88.4 m)​
Proto Kendall Square 284 feet (86.6 m)​
The new grad dorm is around 340' and a clear winner there. Eastgate you're likely talking about the antenna. However, much of Kendall is in the 1000' FAA zone. It's a perfect spot to mimic London's "Shard" effect with our own standout icon. Considering Kendall itself is an absolute powerhouse on the national stage, I'm surprised they wouldn't even want 1 icon to point to for the neighborhood.
 

whighlander

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The new grad dorm is around 340' and a clear winner there. Eastgate you're likely talking about the antenna. However, much of Kendall is in the 1000' FAA zone. It's a perfect spot to mimic London's "Shard" effect with our own standout icon. Considering Kendall itself is an absolute powerhouse on the national stage, I'm surprised they wouldn't even want 1 icon to point to for the neighborhood.
DHZ -- once again anything approaching let alone exceeding the top of the Weather Beacon Hancock would stick out from KSq in the most dramatic fashion

As to Eastgate you are probably right about its stated height by Emporis being the antenna height -- but the building itself is still the tallest in the KSq area [for as long as it lasts]
 

DigitalSciGuy

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With the insulating wrap now on the building ahead of the glazing, you really get a feel for how this is filling in this really underutilized space.

First two photos are from just a few minutes ago. Last one is from a few weeks ago. I'm gonna be kinda sad to see the old building go. I've built a rendition of it a few times on Minecraft servers over the years as the 'HQ' of the in-universe subway authority responsible for building the minecart subways to help people get around the map.
 

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Equilibria

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Full graphics are now up by the City of Cambridge:



One note here is on p.26 of the first document: 500' is still in the cards, and they may propose a 500' building at some point later in the process, trading in some height off the 250' cookie cutters to get there. Obviously I hope they do that, because Kendall is acquiring a bit of a plateau (as they helpfully illustrate in the below). Also, for some reason MITIMCO has included the Constellation Center lab building but not the BXP proposal for multiple towers on the 70' garage.

1615843829375.png
 

bigpicture7

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...One note here is on p.26 of the first document: 500' is still in the cards, and they may propose a 500' building at some point later in the process, trading in some height off the 250' cookie cutters to get there. Obviously I hope they do that, because Kendall is acquiring a bit of a plateau (as they helpfully illustrate in the below). Also, for some reason MITIMCO has included the Constellation Center lab building but not the BXP proposal for multiple towers on the 70' garage.

Agreed; at least they are saying the right things here about valuing height variety (pg. 26 of 1st doc):
Project heights may evolve as buildings are designed and reviewed through the Design Review process. Height variety can be achieved by differences in required floor to floor heights for office versus different types of research, by differences in the number of floors between different commercial buildings and specialty floors on different buildings. The height for residential buildings will allow for even greater diversity in height with one building as tall as 500 feet and another as tall as 350 feet. Additional variation in heights is desirable and will be explored as design progresses as is more specifically set forth in Volume 1, Section 3.C of this document.

Also noticed that a planning board meeting is set for April 6th on this.
 
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