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“We’re on the Right Track:” Cambridge unveils updated plans, timeline for Foundry Building

Cambridge Chronicle - October 4, 2019

Cambridge Foundry Building

By Max Reyes

Officials involved in the roughly $30 million renovation of the Foundry Building in East Cambridge provided residents with a progress report on the long-anticipated project at a public meeting Oct. 2.

The site has been touted for use as a community center focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). But the process of converting the space has been drawn out since the city was gifted the property at 101 Rogers St. as part of an agreement with Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

Some residents at the meeting indicated via a show of hands they have been following developments related to the Foundry for a decade. “It’s been an idea in Powerpoint presentations and paper for a long time, so getting to the actual construction of this and the operation details … all the hard work is getting close to something,” said Tom Evans, executive director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority.

The project is still in the schematic design phase, which means construction has not yet started. But a contractor, W.T. Rich Company Inc., has been selected for the project.

Construction will begin this November and end by summer of 2021, when occupancy becomes possible, according to Evan Moore, senior project manager for W.T. Rich.

Majority of space dedicated to community use

Cambridge owns the building, while the redevelopment authority holds the master lease.

The Foundry Consortium, a nonprofit whose founders come from institutions like the Lemelson-MIT Program and Lesley University, will secure tenants for the property and handle day-to-day activities as the Foundry’s operator.

Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson said the city will commit about $23 million to the project, while the authority will kick in another $7 million. The building’s operating costs will be roughly $1.5 million a year, according to Evans.

Once the renovation is complete, about 60 percent of the structure’s roughly 50,000 square feet will be dedicated to community uses.

According to the presentation, the building will feature woodworking and metalworking workshops, a communal kitchen, and office space on the structure’s upper levels, among other amenities.

Rent from the office spaces will account for most of the revenue the building generates.

Stefanie Greenfield of architecture firm CambridgeSeven Associates Inc. described plans to change the layout of the space by removing concrete floors that had been added to the building, replacing them with metal structures that would create multiple floors within the building while creating an open main hall at the Foundry’s heart.

“It’s all very glassy, very open, but it’s also very robust,” Greenfield said.

Meanwhile, an addition to the building would house electrical equipment and utilities.

Positive feedback

Bonnie Bertolaet, executive director of the Science Club For Girls, said the project was wonderful and that her organization was interested in the space for a number of reasons.

“We are very interested in the STEAM space, being a science club for girls and also focused on STEM,” she said, “and we are also interested in the community use space for holding events and outreach opportunities for our own organization and to collaborate with other organizations that are going to be using the space as well.”

David De Celis, principal at design firm DCVL Design, has served on the Mayor’s Arts Task Force and the Cambridge Public Art Commission. He said he was interested in seeing more public space for the arts within the city, and believes the Foundry sets a good precedent for that.

“For me, the Foundry is one of many in the future,” he said. “Right now, it’s in a part of the city that doesn’t have a lot of activity like this.”

Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, has served as the Consortium’s point person and presented at the event. She said the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.

“In a town like Cambridge, on something so important, to hear so many positive comments means we’re on the right track,” she said.

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Cambridge Chronicle