Coming soon: A 4-story, 20-unit condo building will replace the former restaurant at 307 Fresh Pond Parkway (see developer’s plans).
Once popular, the restaurant has been shuttered for many years and the owner has neglected the site, allowing windows to remain broken and weeds to grow unchecked. Snow is seldom shoveled from the sidewalk, which is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists to access the signaled crosswalk to Fresh Pond Reservation. An ugly chain link fence surrounds the parking lot. No question, the derelict property is an eyesore and the site could be put to better use.
But is a 4-story (45’) modern condo building — set only 10’ feet back from the Vassal Lane sidewalk — the most appropriate addition to a neighborhood of traditional detached wood-frame homes? Twenty units is roughly the equivalent 10 two-family houses, shoehorned onto to a single 13,910 s.f. lot.
The cantilevered building will loom over the intersection where Vassal Lane and Lakeview Avenue converge and meet the parkway. At rush hour, traffic regularly backs up at the stop sign. How appealing will it be to live with the parkway as your front yard, and next door to a gas station and auto repair shed?
The Alewife T stop is an unpleasant 20-minute walk along the busy parkway, past gas stations and shopping center parking lots — the distance is beyond the 1/2-mile range deemed walkable to rail transit. Bus lines on Concord and Huron Avenue are closer but a bus-to-rail commute eats up precious time. The location practically begs people to drive through Huron Village side streets to escape the parkway traffic. Parking along Brattle Street and walking into Harvard Square is a quicker and more appealing route to the Red Line.
Is it realistic to think that 20 parking spaces for 20-40 residents (and guests) is sufficient, and that the overflow cars won’t eat up the limited resident parking spots along Vassal Lane and Lakeview Avenue that are already in demand by visitors to the adjacent Tobin School and residents of other areas who frequent Fresh Pond? Not to mention customers of Cambridge Honda across the street. The parking lot takes up most of the lot’s open space. The ghostly figures at right in the architect’s strikingly unnatural rendering are standing where the 20 cars would be parked along the property line abutting the Tobin School’s driveway. The building is not on a human scale and does not relate well to its neighborhood context. (The people in the renderings all seem quite tall, as if to make the building appear smaller. I hope the head clearance under the cantilever is more than the drawing implies.)
Might an informal family- (and dog-) friendly independent restaurant have been a more appropriate and welcome choice? A place where visitors to Fresh Pond could stop for picnic supplies to-go, a place where Tobin families and teachers could gather for coffee, lunch, or a snack, a place where Huron Village residents could dine after watching the sunset over the pond? Once again, we have missed an opportunity to create a community magnet around one of the city’s finest recreational assets.