Join us for FPRA Meeting on June 7th at 6:30

The developer of 605 Concord Avenue (the former Bank of America building) has asked for a meeting with the community and members of the FPRA in order to gather feedback on their latest plans for the project. Phil Terzis of Acorn (the developer) has reserved the auditorium at the Tobin School on Tuesday, June 7th at 6:30 pm. The main agenda item is a review of Acorn’s latest design, with a question & answer session to follow the presentation.

At the same meeting, Mike Stanley will also give a short presentation on his Transit X project. This is an innovative attempt to solve a number of major transportation problems currently faced by the Fresh Pond-Alewife region and other, similarly dense urban areas. The effort proposes the development and construction of an automated transit network with high-capacity and low visual impact using personal pods running on an elevated track. More information on the concept is available at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/transitx-carbon-free-mass-transit#/ and at http://www.transitx.com/.

If time allows, we would also like to use this opportunity to update the community on the current status of a number of other pending efforts, including:

o   HURON A: http://www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/cityprojects/detail.aspx?path=%2fsitecore%2fcontent%2fhome%2ftheworks%2fcityprojects%2f2010%2falewifesewerseparationproject

o   HURON B: http://www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/cityprojects/detail.aspx?path=%2fsitecore%2fcontent%2fhome%2ftheworks%2fcityprojects%2f2012%2falewifesewerseparationprojecthuronb

o   CONCORD AVENUE: http://www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/cityprojects/detail.aspx?path=%2fsitecore%2fcontent%2fhome%2ftheworks%2fcityprojects%2f2013%2falewifesewerseparationconcordavenueneighborhood

o   NEW STREET: http://www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/cityprojects/detail.aspx?path=%2fsitecore%2fcontent%2fhome%2ftheworks%2fcityprojects%2f2014%2fnewstreetstreetscapeimprovements

Finally (also if time allows), we may also take the opportunity to consider what might come next for our area:

Note that this will be our final meeting prior to the Summer break. We look forward to a lively and constructive discussion. Thank you for your continuing support of our efforts.

Message to the FPRA from Doug Brown, VP.

Join us for Meeting on Dec. 16th

Fawcett Street site of proposed development

Fawcett Street site of proposed development

The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, December 16, 2015, at 7 pm in the auditorium of the Tobin School at 197 Vassal Lane, Cambridge.

A development team will present preliminary plans for a 50-unit condo project at 95 Fawcett St. The site is currently a warehouse building located across the street from Phase II of the Atmark apartments, where the street curves. The developer is seeking resident feedback before applying for special permits.

Also on the agenda are an update on the Cambridge segment of the Watertown Greenway multi-use path, connecting Concord Ave./Fresh Pond to the Arsenal Mall Area (see draft plans) and a brief discussion of endorsing Green Cambridge’s 2030 Goals for Environmental Sustainability.

Boston Globe Covers Alewife Development “Boom” (More to the Story)

389 units were constructed  on Fawcett St

389 units were constructed on Fawcett St

On Monday The Boston Globe ran a story on the Alewife development “boom” that highlighted the success of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance in lobbying for more holistic and inclusive growth planning. The article sparked a robust online discussion, attracting over 110 comments and driving traffic (the good kind!) to the Globe’s website. Given the space constraints of a daily newspaper, this week’s 993-word story could only scratch the surface of a complex set of transit, infrastructure, environmental, and housing policy challenges. Globe editors, please take note: Development in Cambridge is clearly a topic of great interest to your readers, and the story merits continued and more in-depth coverage in 2015.

In the meantime, I’d like to like to use the luxury of the Internet’s boundless space to expand upon some of the thorny issues the article raised: 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

Comments on Latest Alewife Development Proposal

Aerial view of 180R Cambridge Park Drive

Aerial view of 180R Cambridge Park Drive

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on July 8 to review a proposed residential development near the Alewife MBTA station. Below is an extract of the comments that the FPRA officers submitted to the Board for consideration. The complete document is here (17 pages). Continue reading

It’s Always Sunny in Render-adelphia

603 Concord Ave.

603 Concord Ave.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live in the dreamscape neighborhoods depicted in architectural renderings? The sun is always shining, traffic is minimal, and the people look so carefree and unhurried. The warm light in watercolor washes is so flattering, especially to building materials like concrete clapboard that up close don’t look so soft around the edges.

We have the technology to create virtual reality simulations of what proposed buildings would look like in their real-life urban context, yet major development projects are routinely approved based on old-fashioned renderings — the architectural equivalent of what fashion models are to real women. Continue reading

All Mixed Up

This building will offer 398 units (all 1 & 2 BRs). In the foreground another building will offer 244 units.

160 Cambridge Park Drive. This new, 100% residential building will offer 398 units (all 1 & 2 bedrooms). In the foreground, another already permitted building (165 Cambridge Park Drive) will offer an additional 244 units.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the concerns we have over the large development projects currently in the Alewife pipeline is that they are almost exclusively single-use, 100% residential buildings, when one of the stated goals of the 2005 Concord Alewife rezoning was to promote mixed-use development. The area’s 2005 rezoning was intended to further the planning study’s vision, which emphasized the following: “creating a people oriented sense of place; developing a neighborhood gathering-place for people who live, work, play, and shop in the area; overcoming barriers and creating much needed connections to achieve a walkable neighborhood; and enhancing the environment.” Continue reading

New St Hearing a Flashpoint

NewStSignOne thing we can say, 75 New Street always draws a crowd. On May 20, a week after the FPRA faithful filled the Tobin cafeteria for a discussion of the project, more chairs had to be added to the second floor room at City Hall Annex to accommodate the members of the public spilling out into the hallway, as the Planning Board resumed its review of a project that has become the “poster child” for ill-conceived development. Continue reading

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.

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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.

There’s No There There: Why We Need a Master Plan

DSC_0801The expression “There’s no there there” sums up the recent surge of residential development in the Alewife area. Merely adding thousands of units of housing does not make a new neighborhood if there’s no overarching vision or investment in creating a strong sense of place and community.

A master plan would help define a vision for Cambridge’s “Final Frontier,” but the city doesn’t have one, despite our Community Development Department’s insistence that a zoning map, an growth policy document, and a patchwork of area planning studies are the equivalent. Without a comprehensive master plan to guide, coordinate and balance development, Alewife has become a magnet for what a friend calls “spaceships” – giant apartment buildings that have landed on formerly industrial streets. Spaceship buildings are inward-facing, self-contained housing pods that contribute little to the public domain.

“The best urban places are made up of people doing very different things.”
-Tim Love, President, Boston Society of Architects

DSC_0802Spaceship buildings don’t create an urban community because this type of single-purpose development doesn’t give residents the opportunity to do “very different things” near where they live. Since 2004, we have added over 2.4 million square feet of housing in the Alewife/Fresh Pond area, almost three times the amount of new retail and commercial space combined during the same period. This is almost twice the amount of residential development that the Concord Alewife Planning study projected would be built by 2024.

Yet there are no new town squares with stores, restaurants and services, no new community centers, schools or churches, no new playgrounds or parks. There are the all-important “third places” that neighborhoods need to survive and thrive (the first and second places are homes and offices). There is no master plan to say where such community-building amenities are most needed and where they should be located, and no financial incentive for anyone to build them. The profit is in building housing, specifically small luxury units in developments that maximize the density allowed by up-zoning and special permits, which incentivize the conversion of formerly industrial sites to residential use. That part of the 2005 Concord Alewife planning study is working quite well, thank you. The rest, not so much.

So, what we are left with is spaceships – plus another City Council meeting on Monday, April 28, when the debate will continue about whether we need a master plan and, if so, which city officials (the Council or the CDD) should lead the initiative.

Expect more spaceships because, so far, no one is pressing for limits on up-zoning and special permits during the two to three years it could take until we have a master plan in hand.

Recent articles on the master plan debate and Alewife development:

“Let’s actually answer the question: Does Cambridge have the required master plan?” Cambridge Day, April 6

“Final frontier: Opportunities, challenges arise as Alewife development soars, The Final Frontier” Cambridge Chronicle, April 7

“Council calms fears of halter construction, decides master plan orders will be merged” Cambridge Day, April 9

“Residents, officials discuss ways to manage fast-paced change in Alewife” Cambridge Chronicle, April 10

Related Resources

The Mass. state law that spells out the nine required elements in a master plan (Chapter 41, Section 81D

The Concord Alewife Planning Study

 

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