Foundry Building Cost-Benefit Discussion

I am forwarding a document Councillors have been asked to use to provide info for the Foundry Cost-Benefit analysis requested by the Council last month. I am loathe to answer the questions because, as I said at the Council meeting, I think we’re setting the wrong frameworks for discussing the future of this building by having it related so directly to cost/benefit. Obviously, the City can’t spend its entire budget on this property, but equally obviously (to me, at least), any cost/benefit should really just focus on the running of the building. The City got the building essentially for free, in exchange for a pretty significant rezoning of property that will impact East Cambridge more than other communities and I’d like the City to handle the renovation out of the City’s budget and then when we have a building plan that works, have it run by a non-profit for non-profits. My thought is that we really need to make sure this space is open to arts and community uses and I worry that those will become a side-show of 10,000 square feet in the much larger building. Kendall Square is increasingly a vibrant hub of all sorts in Cambridge yet it lacks ready access to youth centers, a library, community space and so forth. Having the discussion starting off with cost/benefit will, I worry, take us in the wrong direction.

Here’s the CDD note:

From: Hemmerle, Lisa []

Foundry – request for additional information

Members of the City Council:

CDD is working with the City Manager’s office to a develop scenarios related to the Foundry Building. All options would retain at least 10,000 square feet for community use. In order to accomplish this, I am asking each councilor to please send me up to five building scenarios related to the Foundry (i.e., innovation use, artist use, combination, etc.). We will then review the scenarios to provide a proposal to the council of the top 4-5 scenarios with cost analysis and possible funding mechanisms.

In proposing scenarios, please keep in mind that the HMFH reports notes that the current total “rentable” area is 53,000 square feet of the building’s total 76,000 square feet of gross area. Any usage reconfiguration of the 53,000 SF would be a cost in addition to the Option A ($7.6M) or Option B ($8.5M) which are necessary to meet code requirements for the structure. Tenant improvement costs will also be in addition to Options A or B. Sandra and I will work together to set up tours for the four facilities described in a previous email, which include: • Jamaica Plain Brewery • The Center for Arts at the Armory • Artisan’s Asylum – Somerville • Watertown Arsenal

Best regards, Lisa Lisa Hemmerle, CPA Director of Economic Development Economic Development Division Cambridge Community Development 344 Broadway, 3rd Floor Cambridge, MA 02139 Phone: 617-349-4616 Fax: 617-349-4638

4 Responses to “Foundry Building Cost-Benefit Discussion”

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  1. Craig Kelley says:

    I think that’s pretty much right, Tim, but first we have to figure out what those bidding guidelines would be. That’s where the conversation seems stuck right now and I just don’t see how focusing on cost/benefits helps us get to a better vision. Money isn’t our problem here. I don’t want to waste it, but if we let the planning emphasis move from “What do we want to accomplish and how can we get there?” to “How much will this cost and what will we get out of it?” without really figuring out the answer to the first question I don’t think we’ll ever get back on track. I’d like to see all arts and community based organizations, but that’s a pretty vague set of terms and could include start-ups of a STE(A)M nature as many of these things do better when they co-exist with other organizations and efforts. And I’d like ongoing costs, both immediate things like heat and electricity and long-term stuff like roof repair, to be paid for by the people using the building, but if we hold them responsible for the original build out as well we’re not going to get the neighborhood jewel that the area really deserves and the whole City would benefit from.

  2. RoweTim says:


    I think you have it right. Given its location right between the fast-growing Kendall Square and the East Cambridge neighborhood, I believe that this building can serve as a unique resource, bridging these two Cambridges. I think the city should put out a request for proposals for the use of the building, giving those who would use the building guidelines for what the city would like to see in the building, and stating that the winning proposal will be (amongst those that are judged economically sound) the one with the most public benefit. I’ve published some of my ideas for the Foundry building here:


  3. Craig Kelley says:

    Thanks, Heather. I think a focus on the language of the zoning and the process (largely led by local residents) that got the City this building in exchange for the zoning change will help people realize that a straight cost benefit analysis, especially before we have a vision, is likely to result in a less successful result than starting out with a clear vision and figuring out how we can make it happen.

  4. HeatherHoffman says:

    CDD, the councillors and Mr. Rossi need to read the zoning. Here’s what it says:

    13.59.10 Donation of an Existing Building with a preference for its use for Municipal or Community Uses.
    Any Final Development Plan shall provide for the transfer of ownership to the City of Cambridge of the existing building and lot identified as 101 Rogers Street (also known as 117 Rogers Street and as the Foundry Building) (Tax Parcel 27-82), with a
    preference for its use for municipal or community uses as generally set forth in Section 4.33 of the Table of Use Regulations, at least 10,000 square feet of which shall be devoted to educational, cultural or institutional uses listed in Section 4.33 of the Table of Use Regulations, at a time and in a form acceptable to the City. Such transfer shall include the full development rights attendant to such lot at an FAR of 3.0 as generally permitted within the applicable PUD. Upon the execution of such transfer of ownership, the PUD Permittee shall be entitled to 43,684 square feet of additional Gross Floor Area for non-residential or residential development within the approved Final Development Plan above that otherwise permitted through application of the FAR limitations set forth in the PUD-3A and 4C Districts, and if ownership of a portion of up to 5,254 square feet of the lot identified as 249 Third Street (Tax Parcel 27-76) is transferred to the City of Cambridge, upon the execution of such transfer of ownership, the PUD Permittee shall be entitled to additional Gross Floor Area, as well, equal to the product of 3 times the number of square feet of such portion of such lot. Such Gross Floor Area may be included in the approved Final Development Plan, notwithstanding that such approval may precede the actual transfer of the property to the City.

    As you can see, the entire building is officially, legally preferably used for municipal or community purposes. The 10,000 square feet is a floor, not a ceiling, and the uses permitted are similar but not identical to those envisioned for the entire building. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Alexandria wants this space to be used in a way that makes people think good things about Alexandria, especially people who might not be inclined to do so at first blush, and so that things could happen there that would make their buildings more attractive to tenants. Why on earth would they have donated this building to the city so that it could be used to cannibalize their business?

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