Minutes of 4/14 FPRA Meeting

IMG_8868Here are minutes of the FPRA’s April 14th public meeting held at the Tobin School.

Jan Devereux, FPRA President, gave some area development updates:

  • Tokyo Restaurant (on Fresh Pond Parkway near Tobin School) – the City was contacted by FPRA about the lack of maintenance of the site (snow not being removed from sidewalks this winter, graffiti on the wall, and the “temporary” metal fence falling over onto the sidewalk). The generally derelict condition of the building is also of concern. It is uncertain if the new owner intends to develop the site. Post-meeting update: Staff at the adjoining auto repair business unofficially reported that their boss Eli, who acquired the Tokyo property last fall, said recently that he is thinking of extending the auto repair bay over the Tokyo property. We believe this would require a special permit because it is in the Parkway Overlay District. There is now a policy order on the 4/27 Council agenda, asking the manger to report on the possibility of acquiring the site for affordable housing. Stay tuned.

  • New Street – DPW will begin reconstructing the street this summer. The contractor is the same as for Fern Street (Barletti). At the former J&C Adams site where the 93-unit development is planned, demolition and testing for asbestos and other pollutants also will begin this summer.
  • Fresh Pond Mall parking lot – the City is talking with the owner, and we were told that some improvements to increase pedestrian safety are due to occur this summer. The extent of the improvements is unknown.
  • Concord-Wheeler I – mixed-use residential development (61 units at corner of Concord Ave and Wheeler St. by Trader Joe’s) – there are some delays with the certificate of occupancy that the developer hopes to get resolved soon. Development of Wheeler phase II (Bank of America site next door on Concord Ave) is reportedly on hold while AbodeZ rethinks the project.
  • Atmark (429 new residential units on Fawcett St.) – was sold recently for $207 million to a real estate investment trust.
  • 165 Cambridge Park Drive (244 residential unit development under construction at the end of CPD) – the construction company (Callahan) is not using union workers and there are reports of other questionable labor practices. The City is investigating.
  • 130 CPD (220 residential units)– the garage construction has begun, and is being built first due to complicated shared parking agreements with businesses on CPD.
  • 88 CPD (258 residential units) – we heard the permit is now on the market for sale before any construction has begun, reportedly for an asking price of $8 million.
  • Mugar Woods (in East Arlington abuts Thorndike Field across Route 2 from Discovery Park) – Mugar is proposing a 219-unit residential development with large surface parking lot on this property that includes wetlands. Interested residents are invited to support “The Coalition to Save the Mugar Wetlands.” They also have a Facebook page by that name.
  • A small group of FPRA members have met with some of the landowners in the Quadrangle area of Concord-Alewife who are interested in developing their property. The City has begun to initiate planning for this area, with a Request for Qualifications (“RFQ”), and FPRA has reached out to the City to advocate for early public inclusion in the planning process in a meaningful way, and for the plan to include the larger connecting areas for better integration and unlocking the potential of developing this area in a livable and sustainable way. Post-meeting update: The City has shared the RFQ and asked for comments by May 8. The RFQ is available online at: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/~/media/8C8E0A6FC1A2485E930D8C01423C87D0.ashx
  • Planning Board reform recommendations that were made by a citywide group of stakeholders continues to be considered by CDD.
  • Commercial signage along Fresh Pond Parkway – volunteers are needed to document where the sign ordinance is not being enforced. Visual clutter is rampant.
  • Snow storage in Danehy Park – was on the last remaining grass soccer field. It is due to have artificial turf installed soon so negative impact on the natural field is irrelevant.

Doug Brown, FPRA Vice-President, gave more area updates:

  • Kingsley Park (at Fresh Pond Reservation) – Phase 1 (the upper path) is now completed; Phase 2 (the lower path) and Phase 3 (the slope in between the upper and lower paths) are still to do. The City has released a Request For Qualifications seeking landscape design services related to these future project phases. Doug is also a member of the Fresh Pond Advisory Board.
  • Watertown Greenway bike path– a letter was produced by the City Manager in March. It reported that DCR has secured funding for the design of the entire greenway path from Watertown to the Fresh Pond Water Treatment Plant. A public process is promised for 2015. Stay tuned.
  • The Atmark Residences have sold for $207 million to a Utah-based investor. Documents recently filed with the Registry of Deeds revealed that only 11.4% of the development is affordable housing (49 of 429 total units).
  • The Armory on Concord Avenue will undergo some renovation soon. This is a $600,000 project to replace the roof, interior lighting, and mechanical ventilation equipment.
  • Masse Hardware project (corner of Walden and Sherman Streets) – the developer has refused to reduce the project’s height, even though members of both the Planning Board and the City Council recommended that they do so. A citizen’s petition to downzone the site from Business A to Residence C1 failed when the City Council shelved the petition.
  • Porter Square: A four-story, mixed-use development (19 residential and 3 ground floor retail units, with parking in the rear) is slated to begin construction soon at 1971 Mass Avenue (the former Bob Slate Stationer location). The project is by Urban Spaces, LLC.
  • Huron area sewer separation project – It’s important for residents to report to the City any problems they experience with the new permanent sidewalks that have been installed during the sewer separation project. Many cases of spalling, cracking, and settling have been detected in the newly laid sidewalks, most likely due to cold weather damage occurring at the time the sidewalks were installed late last Fall. The city is talking with the contractor about how to remedy the problems.

III. Alison Field-Juma reported on Cambridge Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment:

FPRA Flood Study Committee member Alison Field-Juma gave an overview of the March 17th CCVA public presentation by the City and consultants and showed some of the slides. Sobering projections were, in general, that extreme heat events are likely to increase as well as more frequent and severe precipitation and flooding events, greatly impacting areas of Fresh Pond/Concord-Alewife among other areas of Cambridge. Consultants and City staff will use the assessment data to develop a preparedness and resilience plan to deal with climate change. This phase will begin this summer and be completed over next 2-3 years. It’s understood that project leaders will be meeting with smaller groups of people in coming months to get more in-depth thinking from residents about implications of the assessment. Website for the March 17th CCVA presentation: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/~/media/21301A9065C04B7B8CE6FF2BC7F210E2.ashx.

Other Matters of Interest and Comment

Air Traffic Noise Mitigation: Adriana Poole of Belmont, representing the “Boston West Fair Skies” coalition, spoke briefly about their mission and encouraged Cambridge residents to volunteer to join their group. “Fair Skies” is an advocacy group started by residents of Belmont that has expanded to include Arlington, Cambridge and Watertown residents who are impacted by noise from Logan Airport since the opening of a new runway (“33L”) in 2013 and switched to a new GPS-based navigation system (“RNAV”). Their “mission is to create one group with a common goal…. to advocate for more fair distribution of airplane noise.” She also mentioned more fair distribution of possible pollution from jet exhaust. The benefits of the new navigation system per officials include increased safety and fuel efficiency. The “33L RNAV” system, though, makes the flight corridors very narrow, and on days with predominantly northwestern winds, planes are being continually directed over precise routes that impact residents living in neighborhoods of West Cambridge, Arlington, Belmont, and Watertown. For more information on how to take action, volunteer, and contact various officials, see: http://www.bostonwestfairskies.org. Post-meeting update: A MassPort Community Advisory Committee has been created and will include residents from Cambridge, Belmont and neighboring towns. Read more here: http://willbrownsberger.com/massport-community-advisory-committee/

Historic Garden Preservation: Porter Square residents Gretchen Friesinger and Andrea Wilder, representing “The Friends of Nolen’s Knights Garden,” asked for help in saving this historic public open space amenity that is adjacent to St. James’s Church. The garden is located near the corner of Beech St. and Mass Ave., an area where there is little public green space. The Knights Garden is threatened by a 46-unit condo complex that includes church offices. Interested residents can learn more about the Garden friends’ ongoing legal challenge by visiting their website: www.nolensknightsgarden.org.

Difficulties for Alewife-area pedestrians: Kathy Watkins, who lives in the Atmark building on Fawcett St, reported great difficulty in being able to walk to the Alewife T station and Fresh Pond malls this winter. DCR is responsible for clearing sidewalks along the Parkway, and snow remained uncleared for long periods of time. Residents are trying to work with the Atmark property owners to address this problem next winter.

The public’s role in the master plan process: Bob Simha, FPRA Board Member, spoke about a process for successful planning of the Fresh Pond/Concord-Alewife area that needs resident stakeholders to be proactive, such as at least developing a list of criteria for elements in the plan. Waiting to respond to piecemeal developer proposals will not yield important integrated planning, such as around transportation, open space, and climate change. Reaching out to work proactively with neighborhood residents, including in the Cambridge Highlands and condominiums along Concord Avenue, was urged.

FPRA officers present: Jan Devereux, Doug Brown, Terry Drucker, Langley Keyes, Bob Simha, Jay Yesselman and Peggy Barnes Lenart (Secretary, who prepared these minutes).

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