It never would have been “Mission Control,” but the land that became the Volpe Transportation Center was supposed to house a cutting-edge NASA research lab. Photo by Daderot | Public domain

What: NASA’s Cambridge Head Fake
When: Aug. 20,1964
Where: Kendall Square, Cambridge 

Local legends to the contrary, Cambridge never truly stood a chance to host NASA’s “Mission Control” for its many space exploration missions. But with the state’s political clout and MIT’s engineering brilliance, a consolation prize was in order.  

This was supposed to be NASA’s Electronics Research Center, for which the city earmarked 29 acres in its dying industrial heart. But the space agency pulled out in 1969 under political pressure, leaving efforts to revitalize the decaying neighborhood without an anchor. 

After over a decade of wrangling, Cambridge officials were finally able to wrest 11 acres away from NASA and designate Boston Properties as the site’s developer, paving the way for the enormously successful Kendall Square that exists today. 

“It was somewhat like a bombed-out area. I mean it was desolate. There was not a single soul on the streets.”
— Architect Moshe Safdi, who designed Cambridge Center for Boston Properties, to 

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Banker & Tradesman is highlighting significant moments in the history of Massachusetts’ real estate and banking industries. To suggest a topic, email

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