Consultant hired to formulate Kendall, Central square plan

By Brian P. Nanos

The Cambridge City Council voted Monday night to hire consultant Goody Clancy to create a plan for the future of Kendall and Central squares. At the same time, councilors noted that they were expecting more from the Boston firm than just the average planning study. They wanted a roadmap that will lead to the improvement of both areas.

Councilor Sam Seidel said the plan should be bold.

“It’s about asking questions and really throwing dice on the table so we can see what comes up,” he said.

Councilor Leland Cheung said that he expected “some really visionary ideas.”

“We’re really not praying for a study,” Councilor Ken Reeves said. “What we want is a plan that is actualized that gives us a vibrant Kendall and an enhanced Central.”

In remarks to the council, City Manager Bob Healy said that the Boston-based firm would be up to the task. He noted that the firm had won an implementation award for creating plans that came into fruition.

“It wasn’t just a study, it was a plan,” he said. “It was something that was implemented. This is what we envision here.”

Councilors approved Healy’s request Monday night to hire Goody Clancy for $350,000, a cost that the city manager characterized as “a little over the number I envisioned.” The company is charged with working on the future of development of Kendall and Central squares, places where multiple organizations — Novartis, MIT and Forrest City — have already announced plans for large projects.

Healy said that he hoped the process would take close to 10 months.

“If we can stick to a reasonable schedule, this will be a 10-month effort,” Healy said. “I’m willing to see that perhaps it could stretch to 12 months. I would hope not, I would hope we could keep it under 10.”

Healy said that Goody Clancy would be able to “hit the ground running” because the firm already had knowledge of the Kendall Square area that came from creating the 2001 East Cambridge Planning Study..

However, Reeves said that the company’s involvement in that study was not necessarily a positive.

“If you ask the people associated with it if it came to fruition the way they saw I don’t think you’d get a chorus of ‘yes,” he said.

On the whole, Reeves seemed enthusiastic that the planning process was getting off the ground.

The hiring of a consultant had been his idea after he worried that projects such as MIT’s planned redevelopment of Kendall Square would change the face of the squares without much in the way of city guidance.

“God, it’s great to be able to start,” he said Monday night.

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