$500K contract awarded to organizers of Cambridge’s open space design competition

Originally published Feb. 27, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

The Portland, Oregon-based team STASTNY: Architect, LLC will receive $499,920 from the city to organize a competition that will reimagine open space in East Cambridge, according to a contract obtained by the Chronicle.

The architectural firm was the only team to bid on the proposal, according to City Hall communications director Lee Gianetti. The company’s past experience includes managing the design competition for the National Mall, Vancouver Community Connector, and Waller Creek Conservatory in Austin, Texas, among others.

Taha Jennings, a member of the City Manager’s Office, said the city is looking at Kendall Square as a unique opportunity to try an approach that’s been successful for both privately owned and public open spaces. Over the last few years, Jennings said the city had secured roughly five acres of new open space through agreements with developers and property owners that have or will become available to the public.

The idea to connect all of the open spaces through an open-space network grew out of the Kendall Square Central Square Study — dubbed “K2C2.”

“Together these spaces are very important in terms of shaping the overall public realm in Kendall Square, creating a sense of community and sense of place and fostering links with the surrounding community,” Jennings said. “By looking at all of these spaces simultaneously, it also represents an opportunity to consider how the entire open space network fits together including connections, programming and place making.”

The city’s Community Development Department (CDD) was looking to get a range of creative ideas and perspectives that wouldn’t be confined to the firms that have the resources to bid on a project of this size. At a February meeting of the City Council, Assistant City Manager Brian Murphy said CDD would be able to cherry pick the best ideas from the batch of finalists selected.

The contract’s budget includes $200,000 in awards to the selected finalists – $50,000 each for four teams – with an extra $50,000 to be used for contingencies or additional awards. As part of the contract, STASTNY will be responsible for developing strategic recommendations, holding competition workshops and community meetings, drafting the competition guidelines, selecting a jury, and carrying out the competition.

Jennings wasn’t sure whether it was typical for the city to only receive one bidder on a project of this size and scope, he said.

“We recognize it’s a new approach for the city, and probably, in general,” Jennings said, adding the city expects a significant amount of attention and participation in the actual competition.

STASTNY will be working closely with the Eastern Cambridge Kendall Square Open Space Planning Committee on details of the competition process as it develops, Jennings said.

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