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M.I.T.’s Volpe Center redevelopment likely to include Cambridge’s tallest building

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500 feet!

M.I.T.’s plans for the 14-acre Volpe Center site in Kendall Square includes what would be the tallest building in Cambridge.

Recall that the university bought the site from the federal government in January, and the following month floated plans for up to 1,400 housing units as well as 1.7 million square feet of offices and research space.

A recent filing with Cambridge confirms much of those plans. M.I.T. would also ensure 3.5 acres of open space and, per the terms of the agreement with the feds, the school, too, has to accommodate a federal transportation hub at the site.

But what really sticks out—in February and in the recent filing—is the height range of M.I.T.’s proposed buildings. Under current zoning, the school can build one residential tower up to 500 feet.

That would make it far and away the tallest building in Cambridge. (Others at the site would be capped at 350 feet.)

By our back-of-the-envelop calculations, the city’s tallest tower right now is M.I.T.’s 295-foot Green Building on its main campus, with a couple of more planned that would be slightly taller than that. None comes close to 500 feet, though.

An aerial view of a large park plaza with trees. There is a path adjacent to the plaza with people. There are building surrounding the park and path.
Rendering of M.I.T.’s plans
Rendering via Elkus Manfredi

M.I.T. plans to formally roll out its proposal June 29. Municipal reviews start after that, and who knows what will happen? Stay tuned.