Citywide Plan to Focus on Alewife Area First

Suggested Study area. the area of impact extends well beyond the map's borders, making residents of adjacent areas stakeholders in the study process.

Suggested Alewife Study area. The area of impact extends well beyond the map’s borders, making residents of adjacent areas stakeholders in the study process.

The citywide master planning process is now underway. The first step in the 3-year process is an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for a scope of services and deliverables from the to-be-named planning consultant. The Community Development Department, which is overseeing the plan, released a draft RFQ and invited the community to send comments by May 8.

Here are comments the FPRA officers submitted. Our comments address the Alewife Study, which has been promised as an early phase/first area of focus of the citywide plan. The final RFQ will be issued the week of May 25. According to the city’s timeline, a consultant will be selected by the end of the summer, and the planning process will begin in September 2015. Read on and stay tuned!  Continue reading

New Street Redesign: Plans Prioritize Safety for Walkers & Cyclists

Proposed design for crossings at New St and Concord Ave

Proposed design for crossings at New St and Concord Ave

Last month the Department of Public Works held a second public meeting to review designs for the planned reconstruction of New Street, a critical infrastructure improvement that the FPRA has championed for the past year. The designs presented at the meeting are now posted on the DPW site.

Option 2 was preferred by those who attended the meeting and will be the one implemented. We are pleased with the progress, and thank Kathy Watkins and DPW staff for being responsive to residents’ concerns.

Continue reading

New Street Redesign: Recommendations on Street Trees

New Street needs a complete overhaul.

New Street needs a complete overhaul.

A second public meeting on the anticipated redesign of New Street will be held on Thursday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at the Tobin School. The DPW will present its latest concept designs, building on the discussion that began at the first meeting on October 22. We have not yet seen the new designs — and we expect they will include sidewalks and bike paths along the length of the street — but we shared with city staff the following recommendations for the placement of future street trees. The photos with the continuation of this post illustrate the urgent need for improvements to New Street. Continue reading

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

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

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

88 CPD Post Mortem

The dotted line shows the scale of the original proposal (9-10 stories vs. 6-7)

The dotted line shows the scale of the original proposal (9-10 stories vs. 6-7)

As reported today in the Cambridge Chronicle, the Planning Board approved the McKinnon Company’s 254-unit residential development at 88 CambridgePark Drive last night — pending the resolution of one sticking point before the final decision is recorded (no later than November 21). Continue reading