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Officials to narrow bidders for Volpe site in next few weeks

The Volpe Center in Kendall Square.
The Volpe Center in Kendall Square.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

There are a bunch of big names in the running to redevelop the Volpe site in red-hot Kendall Square.

But not for long.

Federal officials say they’ll winnow bidders for the 14-acre site — one of the most prized development opportunities in Greater Boston — over the next few weeks. Then they’ll seek formal proposals to develop there in April or May, with an eye to signing a developer by the end of next year.

That’s according to Denise Turner Roth, administrator of the General Services Administration, who swung through Cambridge on Tuesday on a tour touting her agency’s role in local economic development.

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The GSA owns the Volpe site, which is a US Department of Transportation facility, and is hoping to partner with a private developer to build a new home for the research labs there in exchange for the right to build office buildings and housing on the site, the biggest patch of open ground left in Kendall Square.

“We want to unlock the value of this land,” Roth said.

They have lots of potential partners, perhaps as many as 14. Eight development teams, including many of the region’s biggest names, confirmed to the Globe that they responded to the GSA’s request for information in August. Six more met with Cambridge city officials, a key step in the process. Roth said GSA plans to ”downselect” to the most qualified teams soon and invite those to file more detailed plans.

Meanwhile, officials in Cambridge are updating zoning on the site, which will govern what can be built there. A proposal sent to the City Council last week would increase affordable housing requirements to 20 percent of the project — an estimated 203 units — and allow a building as tall as 500 feet “if it provides a distinctive, landmark building for Kendall Square,” and establish new guidelines for open space and street-level storefronts.

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Cambridge aims to have the new zoning approved by February, said Iram Farooq, the city’s acting director of community development.


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.