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Google interest in Cambridge expansion surfaces at city council meeting

Posted by Brock Parker  February 27, 2012 09:11 PM

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A development that would clear the way for a major expansion of Google offices in Kendall Square surfaced before the Cambridge City Council Monday night and was tabled amid questions by members of the public and city officials.

The proposal by Boston Properties Limited Partnership would construct a 25,000 square foot building connecting existing buildings located at Four and Five Cambridge Center where Google already has office space.

According to a letter Boston Properties sent to Cambridge last week, the connector building is part of a larger project being undertaken in connection with the leasing of approximately 300,000 square feet to Google, Inc. in the buildings at Three, Four and Five Cambridge Center.

Boston Properties said it its letter to the city that Google has outgrown its existing space at Three and Five Cambridge Center and is looking to “create and urban campus configured in a manner facilitate its work processes, enhance its unique culture and help attract the best candidates for its workforce.”

Stephen Vinter, an engineering and site director for Google’s offices in Cambridge attended the Cambridge City Council meeting Monday, but declined to comment on whether Google is looking to expand in the city.

If the Boston Properties proposal is approved, the development would result in a reduction of more than 18,000 square feet of public open space created by covenants Boston Properties already has with the city. The open space that would be removed would come from a rooftop park on the East Garage. Boston Properties would, however, then create a new urban park on more than an acre of land owned by the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority at the corner of Binney and Galileo Galilee Way.

But the impact of the project on the rooftop open space at the garage elicited concern from some park-goers at the council’s meeting Monday.

Cambridge resident Heather Hoffman said the proposal was worse than the lyrics of the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” that stated “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

“The parking lot is underneath [the park] and they want to put a building on it,” Hoffman said.

City Councilor Tim Toomey also said the project has not been through a community process discussing it with people in the area around Kendall Square and he was “deeply disappointed” at the manner in which it came before the council.

Speaking before the council Monday, Michael Cantalupa, a senior vice president for Boston Properties, requested that the proposal be tabled until the council’s next meeting on March 19 so the developer can present its plans to planning teams for East Cambridge, Kendall and Central Squares.

In a letter to the City Council Monday, City Manager Robert Healy said the development proposal "provides for a very exciting economic development opportunity allowing for a major expansion of Google's presence in Cambridge.''

But Healy told the council Monday that a decision by the city on whether the project can move forward is time sensitive. He would not say when a decision must be made.

“I would only say without going into any detail there is a timeliness to the need to know as to whether this is a viable real estate option for Google to exercise,” Healy said.

--Brock.globe@gmail.com

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