75 New Street: Comments to the Cambridge Planning Board (11/25/14)

NewStfromDanehyThe proposed 93-unit development at 75 New Street will have its fourth hearing before the Cambridge Planning Board tonight (Tuesday, November 25) at 8 p.m.. The FPRA sent these comments to the Board and other city staff for their consideration:

To the Chair and Members of the Planning Board:

We write on behalf of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance to offer our comments on the most recent proposal for 75 New Street (“Park 75”). We appreciate the good-faith efforts by the proponents (AdodeZ and Acorn Holdings) to address residents’ and the Board’s concerns. While there is no question that the design has improved since the project was first proposed last February, we feel the overarching concerns about scale, massing and mixed use, as well as questions about traffic and environmental impact, remain unaddressed and that further design changes are needed to satisfy the requirements and the intent of the ordinance. We offer the following recommendations for consideration: Continue reading

New Street Redesign: Prioritizing Safety & Connections

Sidewalks on New Street make the location too pedestrian unfriendly for the project to be considered "transit-centered."

As currently laid out, New Street is poorly suited for residential development. A complete redesign is in the planning stages.

Our group’s concerns about the proposal to construct a 93-unit “transit-oriented” residential development on New Street, which lacks the continuous sidewalks needed for a safe pedestrian route to and from public transport, has prompted a public involvement process to inform a complete redesign of the street in 2015. Following well-attended public meetings held by the city’s Department of Public Works (on Oct. 22) and the FPRA (on Oct. 29), we have developed the following list of concerns and priorities to guide city staff as they develop concept designs for the next meeting (in December or January). The plans and survey that DPW presented on Oct. 22 are posted online. Continue reading

FPRA Public Meeting, Wed. Oct. 29, 7 pm

Will this site be redeveloped as 100% affordable housing? How many units?

Will this site be redeveloped as 100% affordable housing? How many units?

The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, October 29 at 7 pm at the Tobin School (197 Vassal Lane).

Staff from the city’s Community Development Department will talk about car-sharing in Cambridge, improvements to bike and pedestrian facilities, and sustainable transportation initiatives. The discussion also will cover recent initiatives by the City Council on affordable housing; the future of the former Tokyo restaurant and Masse’s corner properties; updates on the New Street and Fern Street street-scape redesigns; the status of the Silver Maple Forest action; and what can be done to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the Fresh Pond mall parking lot. SunBug Solar will be on hand with materials about solar installation.

Many of these topics are actively discussed on the FPRA’s listserv. To join, please email freshpondresidents@gmail.com. The FPRA also has a Facebook page and a Twitter profile (@FreshPondRA)

Plan for 26 Units on Former Masse’s Lot Stuns Neighbors

Masse's Hardware store to be redeveloped

Masse’s Hardware store to be redeveloped

Many locals mourned the loss of F.X. Masse Hardware Co. when the family-owned store, a neighborhood institution since 1888, closed in October 2013. Now, just a year later, the goodwill the Masse family accrued over 125 years in the trade is being tested with plans to develop their two corner lots at the busy intersection of Walden and Sherman Street into a total of 32 apartments. Area residents, many of them loyal Masse’s customers, are upset about third-generation owner David Masse’s plan to convert the former store into a 6-unit building, and to construct a new 26-unit building on the parking lot across the street. Continue reading

88 CPD Post Mortem

The dotted line shows the scale of the original proposal (9-10 stories vs. 6-7)

The dotted line shows the scale of the original proposal (9-10 stories vs. 6-7)

As reported today in the Cambridge Chronicle, the Planning Board approved the McKinnon Company’s 254-unit residential development at 88 CambridgePark Drive last night — pending the resolution of one sticking point before the final decision is recorded (no later than November 21). Continue reading

A Tale of Two Hearings

Sample of materials proposed for 75 New St.

Sample of materials proposed for 75 New St.

Public comment turned the tide at two public hearings last week, again demonstrating the importance of our showing up and speaking up on matters large and small that affect the quality of life in our area. Encouraging greater civic engagement is central to our group’s mission to raise the level and quality of public discourse on neighborhood planning and development issues.

75 New Street: Case Continued Again

On Tuesday, September 16th, the Planning Board resumed its consideration of the 93-unit project at 75 New Street, and once again did not make make a decision, continuing the case to a fifth hearing (to be scheduled within the next 60 days). Continue reading

What’s on the Council Agenda? (9/22)

All aboard for Alewife!

All aboard for Alewife!

Items of note on tomorrow’s City Council meeting agenda:

Policy Order #5 Asks the CDD to undertake a study of “emerging business types” in order to update the zoning ordinance to reflect more home-based businesses.

This is a good step, given that technology has changed greatly since the early 1960s when the table of uses was written. More home-based businesses (and co-working spaces) could help reduce people’s commutes.

Policy Order #6 Seeks to require earlier community outreach by developers of large projects to neighborhood organizations and residents. The CDD and the Planning Board are asked to begin testing strategies to create new policies and procedures for soliciting more community engagement and input prior to hearings.

We support the intent of this order, but would like to see residents involved in developing the procedures, rather than leaving it to CDD and the PB to determine what’s most effective. We also wonder about the status of the study committee proposed in an earlier order that was supposed to be looking at Planning Board procedures — wouldn’t this have been a key item on the study’s committee’s agenda?

Policy Order #7 Asks the City Manager and staff to look into the feasibility of conducting series of walks in the Alewife area to prepare the councillors for their roundtable meetings with the Planning Board in Dec and January.

This likely came about because Vice Mayor Benzan said at the last Council meeting that he hasn’t had too much chance to visit the Alewife area and would like the Council to get on a trolley bus to tour the area.

Also a report on the council’s transportation committee hearing held in June at Tobin has been posted for the official record. 

Complete list of policy orders.

You can email your opinions to council@cambridgema.gov (cc dlopez@cambridgema.gov) or call 617-349-4280 on Monday morning to sign up to speak. The meeting begins at 5:30 and will be held at CRLS in the Henrietta Alves meeting room where the School Committee meets (entrance on Broadway).