New Street Redux: Hearing May 20th

75 New St current site

75 New St current site

The Cambridge Planning Board will resume its consideration of a proposed 93-unit residential development at 75 New Street at a public hearing on Tuesday, May 20, at 7 pm at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway at Inman St.). Cambridge residents  are encouraged to attend the hearing and to comment on the project’s design, either in person or by emailing Liza Paden at lpaden@cambridgema.gov.

The FPRA opposes the design and the developer’s request for special permits to reduce setbacks and allow a change in use from light industrial to high-density residential for the reasons stated in our May 13 letter to the Planning Board. The text of the letter is available online with this petition. Please sign our petition if you agree.

The proposed new building is Phase II of the developer's project.

The proposed new building is Phase II of the developer’s project.

IMG_6525

The 93-unit building would be 4 stories tall.

The 93-unit building would be 4 stories tall.

The new building would be next door to Phase I.

The new building would be next door to Phase I.

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

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

New Street empties into one of the most clogged intersections in the city.

New Street empties into one of the most clogged intersections in the city.

The most direct route to the T goes through a busy parking lot with no sidewalks.

The most direct route to the T goes through a busy parking lot with no sidewalks.

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8 thoughts on “New Street Redux: Hearing May 20th

  1. I can understand your trepidation, but I am actually pleased to see all the new development. Yes, the traffic will continue to be slow, but it already is slow, and more people in the area will (I think) make it more bustling and make more ped and bike friendly But I am often in the minority… I want more development in my neighborhood too (I’m a mile away or so), and some of my neighbors don’t agree. 🙂

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  2. Your suggestion about building more sidewalks is a good one. It would also be nice to create safe and clear passageway from New Street to Public Transit. And it would be terrific if it wasn’t hazardous to walk or bike down New Street. I think we all share many of the same concerns. So contrary to your feeling that many of your neighbors disagree, I think there is a lot of agreement.
    No one is saying stop development I don’t think. Neighbors are saying, as you state above, “let’s build some good ones!”

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  3. Eric- Most of us are not against development per se. The biggest problem I have is the acceptance of massive buildings with little outdoor space, and the amount of these buildings in aggregate. If you knew that the Quad (the area behind Concord Avenue) could contain
    the equivalent of 5 Courthouse buildings, would it give you pause?

    Terry D.

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  4. This Fresh Pond group is quite reactionary and not very visionary (yet). Create a vision for the future bike path behind this proposed development. As part of that vision, define recommended (community supported) guidelines for the development, such as building orientation toward the path, stepped back at higher levels to allow sunlight, public entrances to the path, etc. As I understand this development on New St will replace sidewalks, add trees, and generally upgrade a blighted area. Lets support this effort while forcing some design changes regarding setbacks, as well as require the developer a contribute to a fund for the rail trail (which I think is still in private hands in this section).

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    • We actually agree — the building should be redesigned to make possible such connections between a possible future bike path and Danehy Park. Unfortunately Phases I and II of this developer’s New St project would create a @500-foot wall of apartments along the path, sealing the path off from New Street, the park, and the shopping center. We also wonder about the tunnel effect it might create for cyclists and others using the path, especially if a new road is created where the loading docks are now (this new road, an extension of Concord Lane, was envisioned in the city’s planning study for the area, and may be needed to improve circulation through the area). We are pleased that our group’s lobbying prompted the developer to negotiate with DPW some improvements to the sidewalks along New St and the planting of more street trees — but we think these improvements should be made along the entire length of the street, on both sides — not solely in front of these 2 buildings. We have not yet seen a design of how the new sidewalks and street trees would actually fit into the available space. Larger setbacks and step backs in the upper levels would help reduce and break up the building’s mass to create a more human scale for passersby. We also would like to see some public space on the ground floor (a cafe for instance) that would create more of a sense of neighborhood and community. We are working on some recommendations but we would like the city’s own planning staff and board to take a more active role in guiding development so that improving circulation and public safety and creating a strong sense of place and neighborhood are the top priorities. Merely meeting the narrow special permit criteria is not enough to ensure this. Vision is sorely lacking on New St but it should not be up to residents to supply one — that’s why we need a master planning process.

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  5. All good points. Although a cafe type space might be desirable, I would focus on the other issues you mentioned. Sidewalks and trees along all of New St need to be improved as mentioned. The opposite side of street sidewalks are continually blocked by the restaurant etc.

    Continuing Concord Ln adjacent to the tracks is not a good solution. If a trail were to be developed the opposite side of tracks also should be reserved for housing or other adjacent to trail appropriate uses in the eventual redevelopment of Fresh Pond shopping center. A citywide master plan I think is too broad scale for these details. An update to the FP planning study is more appropriate for these site based land use decisions.

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  6. New Street was left out of the Concord Alewife Planning study. Any Concord Lane extension would presumably be part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the shopping center — nothing on the horizon there, could be years away. Mixed use was a goal of the CA plan and should be considered for New St projects since they abut the shopping center area. Danehy Park could use a place where visitors could get a healthy lunch or a cold drink without having to brave the wild west of the shopping center parking lot.

    The City Council has a policy order on its 6/2 agenda asking for the relevant city departments to discuss and address how to improve sidewalks and circulation on New St.

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