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

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.

Support the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons Master Plan Order

photo (1)Dennis Carlone’s petition for a new master plan is the basis for a very important policy order, co-sponsored by Councillors Nadeem Mazen and Denise Simmons, on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Monday, April 7 at 5:30 pm.

Read full text of the Carlone policy order here.

We support the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons policy order over another planning-related policy order sponsored by Mayor David Maher, Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan and Councillor Marc McGovern.

The two policy orders come in response to growing public concern about the impact that the recent surge in development is having on traffic congestion, housing affordability, social equity, pedestrian/bike safety, the environment and open space – to name a few. While both policy orders recognize that residents citywide are demanding – and deserve – a greater voice in the planning process, we believe that the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons order goes further toward ensuring a more democratic and comprehensive process because it places our elected City Council at the helm, rather than appointed staff.

In our opinion, the competing policy order would more likely sustain the unsustainable status quo that has residents in the Fresh Pond area and across the city up in arms. Quite frankly, we don’t think that we could have filled the Tobin cafeteria at our first meeting on March 24 if the status quo was giving residents a meaningful say in the planning process. Monday night’s Council meeting will no doubt spark a lively debate, and a favorable outcome could be critical to the future of our neighborhood.

What you can do to help NOW

1. Contact the City Council in support of the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons master plan initiative (Policy Order #14). Send emails to council@cambridgema.gov and cc dlopez@cambridgema.gov to be entered into the public record. Or call (617) 349-4280.

2. If you have a relationship with Councillors Kelley, Cheung, or Toomey (the three who are not co-sponsoring either policy order), please contact them directly to ask that they support the Carlone order for a master plan.
ckelley@cambridgema.gov
lcheung@cambidgema.gov
ttoomey@cambridgema.gov

and/or

3. Attend Monday’s Council meeting and speak in support of the Carlone-Mazen-Simmons master plan initiative. Call (617) 349-4280 after 8:30 am on Monday to sign up to speak, and/or sign in when you arrive at City Hall (by 5:30 pm) to add your name on the public testimony list. You will be given three minutes to express your views.

If you can make it to City Hall on Monday at 5:30 pm, we encourage you to do so. Even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking, you can applaud other speakers to show your support, and the debate is sure to be instructive on many levels.

Need talking points for your comments?

The Cambridge Residents Alliance has developed a MENU of TALKING POINTS that you could use to frame your emails and comments to the Council.

Learn More

You are also welcome to attend the CRA meeting TODAY at 4:00 pm (Sunday 4/6) at St. Bartholomew’s Church off Prospect St. (next door to the Area 4 Youth Center). The group will be discussing the Carlone policy order and why a comprehensive master plan is so urgently needed.

Other Important Actions

75 New Street is on the Planning Board’s agenda for Tuesday, April 8, at 7:20 pm at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway). Thank you to everyone who submitted comments by email. We need folks to come and speak at the hearing, too. The 3-minute rule applies, so focus your comments on the aspect of the proposal that most concerns you.

Please forward this link to neighbors & friends. You and they can request to join our list by emailing FreshPondResidents@gmail.com.

Thank your for caring enough about the future of our neighborhood and our city to read to the end of this post.

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Kickoff Meeting Sparks Dialogue, Spurs Push for Master Plan

Fresh_Pond_Residents_mtg_3-24-14About 150 Cambridge residents gathered on March 24 at the Tobin School for our group’s first meeting to share concerns about the “tsunami of development” underway in the Fresh Pond/Alewife area of Cambridge. In addition to residents from all areas of the city, attendees at our town-hall style forum included MA Rep. David Rogers and Cambridge City Councillors Dennis Carlone and Marc McGovern, and Carlone aide Mike Connolly. Also present were School Committee member Patty Nolan, former Councillor Minka von Beuzekom, and staff aides to MA Rep. Jon Hecht and Cambridge Mayor David Maher.

Our kickoff event raised awareness about the surge of recent development in the Alewife/ North Cambridge area – over 2,500 residential units constructed or in the pipeline since 2010 – and prompted a vigorous discussion about the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods and the environment. Many attendees were unaware of the 2006 zoning changes that unleashed this “gold rush,” and were shocked by the scale and density of growth around the area (see slide presentation from meeting). Continue reading

“Nobody Goes There. It’s Too Crowded.”

DSC_0797Or, “You can’t get there from here.” These expressions describe Fresh Pond Parkway at certain hours, and yet over 2,000 new units of housing are in the pipeline with no improvements to the transit infrastructure in the Concord Alewife corridor. Just because these units are within a 1/2 mile of the Red Line terminus at Alewife does not mean that every new resident will forgo driving and hop on a bike; the units are also conveniently located right on a major regional artery that leads to Route 2 and Interstates 95 and 93, and to points west, south and north of Boston where many people also happen to work. Continue reading

High-Density Housing on New Street: A Terrible Idea

A stroll down New Street — walk at your own risk!

It’s already a challenge to walk (or cycle) from the Sozio rotary along New Street without facing off against cars, but a largely car-free lifestyle is the vision driving a developer’s plan to construct 93 rental units at 75 New Street (see sp286 plans), currently the site of JC Adams Windows (photo below). The proposed new building would be next door to the same developer’s recently assembled 54-unit rental building known as Park 87. (I say “assembled” because this developer favors in modular pre-fab construction.)

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Site of proposed 93-unit building

The plan calls for only 94 parking spaces for 93 units. Street parking along a short stretch of New Street (on the Danehy side) is limited to 2 hours, so any additional cars would park…where exactly? (Likely, in the Danehy lot which is supposed to be for park users only.) Those spots are already full at peak hours (weekend mornings and early evening) due to overflow from Evolve Fitness, which is located opposite the JC Adams site.

Cars parked along New St make the road too narrow for 2-way traffic

Cars parked along New St make the road too narrow for 2-way traffic

Cars are regularly parked on and across the sidewalks along New Street. It is impossible to walk the length of the street without stepping out into the road. There are no bikes lanes on New Street either, and when cars are parked on the street the road narrows to a single lane of traffic.

Cars regularly block the sidewalks along New Street

Cars regularly block the sidewalks along New Street

Residents of 75 New Street will be given incentives to use public transport, but good luck getting safely to and from Alewife, a 15-minute walk across the parking lot of the Fresh Pond cinema and shopping center without any sidewalk separation to protect them from cars zipping through the lot. Without clearly marked lanes, the lot is the Wild West for drivers, too. And who would be foolhardy enough to attempt this walk after dark?

New Street ends at the shopping center parking lot

New Street ends at the shopping center parking lot

For drivers, the only escape from New Street leads smack into the dangerous and often gridlocked Sozio rotary (right turn only onto the parkway toward Alewife or left onto overbuilt Bay State Road to cut through residential neighborhood streets back to Concord Ave). To avoid the rotaries, many drivers already cut through the shopping center parking lot, which isn’t a proper road, to go west on Route 2, or to get back on Concord Avenue toward Belmont by going under the parkway bridge and cutting through the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Ironically this shortcut to Belmont drops drivers right on the doorstep of the same developer’s project on Wheeler Street and Concord Avenue (66 modular units are being stacked right now). But according to the traffic department’s study, neither of these two new buildings at known choke-points will have a negligible impact on traffic. Go figure.

The planning board will review the developer’s application for special permits for this project on Tuesday, March 4 at 8 pm at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway).

Please sign a petition to deny permits for this project.