Fresh Pond Alewife Transportation: Comments to Boston MPO

Parkway traffic Thurs eve May 2014Transportation in the neighborhoods of Fresh Pond, and the Alewife-Transportation-Community

These comments were made in response to questions of the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  An MPO is required to spend federal transportation funds. The region of the Boston MPO, generally, is within Route 495.

Earlier, the Boston MPO had invited comments on its Vision, Goals and Objectives for transportation.  Our earlier comments, dated November 3, 2014, related to the neighborhoods around Fresh Pond. (See 11/3 comments to MPO)

The comments that follow focus on our neighborhoods and urban mobility: walk, bike, bus, Red Line, and commuter rail.  We do not ignore motor vehicles.  We suggest Transportation-Community rather than corridor as the focus of mobility.  Our Transportation-Community includes Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, and Cambridge.  The corridor through our community, limited access highway Route 2, Alewife Brook Parkway, and Fresh Pond Parkway, is both an impediment and an opportunity.

Alison Field-Juma and Arthur Strang participated in this writing.  We invite comment on the blog.

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Fresh Pond/Alewife Flood Planning & Action Summary

Questions about the impact of development on the Alewife flood plain and about how planning for climate change will necessitate new flood mitigation and storm water management measures prompted a group of FPRA members to research and write the following report. Thank you to Peggy Barnes Lenart, Arthur Strang, Jay Yesselman, Mike Nakagawa, Alison Field-Juma, and Alice Heller for taking the initiative to form a working group, and to Owen O’Riordan, Cambridge DPW Commissioner, and Kathy Watkins, Cambridge City Engineer, for meeting with the group and sharing their knowledge. 

We all know that the Fresh Pond/Alewife area (FP/A) has a naturally soggy history. We wanted to understand what we can do now so that the future—which will include a lot more people and assets—will avoid the worst effects of flooding. Below is a summary of what we learned through our own research and a presentation to us by Owen and Kathy. This is just a summary—ask us questions and we’ll seek to answer them! Continue reading

The Big Chill: Civic Engagement & the Planning Process

Iceberg2014 will go down in the annals of Cambridge political history as the year long-simmering frustrations with the Planning Board boiled over, as more and more residents began to realize the People’s Republic had left them out in the cold while the city’s planners stoked the white-hot real estate development market.

After months of intense and intensifying scrutiny, the Board paused to reflect on its own procedures and process during an unusual public hearing on October 28 and again during a Roundtable discussion with the City Council on December 1. At the October hearing Assistant City Manager for Community Development Brian Murphy stated that the city is committed to making changes to ensure “an open, transparent and accessible process.” During the December Roundtable, Board member Ted Cohen acknowledged that by the time development proposals have their first public hearing they are “fairly frozen,” while Chair Hugh Russell remarked that 99% of the planning is done by CDD and that what’s discussed at the public hearings is the “tip of the iceberg.” Continue reading

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