Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Grab Bag: Foundry Building presentation; GOP convention

It's a Friday, so it's the Grab Bag.

First up, the Foundry Building ...

The next chapter in the long story of the Foundry Building took place last night when the Hacin/CIC/Graffito development team presented their concepts on how to reinvigorate the East Cambridge building in front of citizens and members of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. The CRA had called last night's meeting in City Hall so the public could hear from the only team to respond to the RFP issued a few months ago. Figuring out how to redevelop the  120-year-old Foundry has been a challenge ever since the city took possession of the building as part of a large land deal involving Alexandria Real Estate in 2010. The building is located between Rogers and Bent Street.

With presentations from Matt Arnold of Hacin Associates architects, Brian Dacey of CIC and Jesse Baerkahn and Dave Downing of Graffito SP, the themes of openness, inclusivity and flexibility for the building were stressed, as was the need of working together. "We can figure this out with the CRA and the city of Cambridge" said Baerkahn at one point during the presentation.

Because it is a city-owned building, the need for successful spaces for people to gather, meet, interact, create has been a major focus of discussions to date. The CRA has set a minimum square footage required for community space in the building and the development team has been working hard trying to figure how to pencil out the numbers so that it all works.

In part to address these concerns, Nicole Fichera of the Venture Cafe presented about her work operating District Hall in Boston, a similar concept also designed by the Hacin/CIC/Graffito team in the Seaport District in Boston. Fichera made the point that in these spaces, "it's important to realize that it's not just about tech." She noted that in District Hall, there is a lot of discounting of cost so that mission-driven groups can use the space, in effect subsidized by the tenants who pay full fare. On an annual basis these discounts amount to $1 million, a goal that is set internally at Venture Cafe. Such a model could also apply at the Foundry.

With only one respondent to the RFP, a challenge for the Redevelopment Authority is what measuring stick to use in evaluating this proposal. Since there are no other proposals to compare it to, the Hacin/CIC/Graffito team must be judged against the original concepts that were pulled together during the RFP process. No dates were set for the announcement of a developer for the Foundry Building.

[Full disclosure, I submitted ideas to the Hacin/CIC/Graffito team earlier in the process, and I spoke in positive terms about the team as a whole in last night's meeting.]

Next up, the GOP convention ...

Here, I will only agree with what has been written elsewhere about the GOP and its nominee. Last night was terrifying. The first 20 minutes of Donald Trump's speech had no rightful place in American political discourse. His understanding of American society is dire and bleak. He is filled with fear, and he instills fear. There is a threatening tone to it all, and it is capped with the claim that "I alone can fix it." It sounds like Germany in the 1930s. He sounds like Adolph Hitler.

I also agree that the Republican Party as we have known it is effectively dead. It has no core beliefs any more. It is just a bunch a megalomaniacs running around trying rally their supporters.

The consequences of this election have become so great that no matter how uninviting it is to pull the lever for Hillary Clinton in November (and I share a distaste for her as the 2016 Democratic nominee), the other option is so nihilistic and dangerous that it wouldn't be unfair to call a vote for Donald Trump anti-American.