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.

75 New Street: Comments to the Cambridge Planning Board (11/25/14)

NewStfromDanehyThe proposed 93-unit development at 75 New Street will have its fourth hearing before the Cambridge Planning Board tonight (Tuesday, November 25) at 8 p.m.. The FPRA sent these comments to the Board and other city staff for their consideration:

To the Chair and Members of the Planning Board:

We write on behalf of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance to offer our comments on the most recent proposal for 75 New Street (“Park 75”). We appreciate the good-faith efforts by the proponents (AdodeZ and Acorn Holdings) to address residents’ and the Board’s concerns. While there is no question that the design has improved since the project was first proposed last February, we feel the overarching concerns about scale, massing and mixed use, as well as questions about traffic and environmental impact, remain unaddressed and that further design changes are needed to satisfy the requirements and the intent of the ordinance. We offer the following recommendations for consideration: 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

Piecemeal Approval Process Lets Developers Off the Hook

180RCPD AerialThis week’s Cambridge Chronicle has a guest editorial by FPRA officers Jan Devereux and Doug Brown.

Here’s how it starts (read the full piece on Wicked Local Cambridge):

The Cambridge political landscape has changed this year with the election of four new city councilors and the appointment of a new city manager. There also has been a marked surge in activism among residents, much of it focused on development and urban planning issues. Along with councilors Dennis Carlone and Nadeem Mazen, neighborhood organizations across the city have begun to change — and elevate — the conversation about the goals, values and priorities that will inform the city’s new master plan.

As leaders of the newest resident group on the scene, we think this is a healthy change, and one that we aim to further through our work. For too long, the city’s permitting process has pitted residents against developers in an adversarial process that forces us to play “whack-a-mole” on a playing field that is far from level. Under the former city manager’s quarter-century regime, our volunteer Planning Board followed a narrow checklist approach to evaluating large projects that ignored some of the broader policy issues at stake. Too often, residents were cast as obstructionist when they tried to raise reasonable concerns about community benefits and the public good.

If you have not already signed the Carlone Petition to make the City Council the special permit granting authority, please do so here.

Carlone Zoning Amendment: A Positive Step

Wheeler St & Concord Ave development

Wheeler St & Concord Ave development

As those on the FPRA’s listserv and others following local development politics know, Councilor Dennis Carlone introduced a zoning amendment that would change the process by which special permit decisions are made while the city is in the midst of a master planning process. If passed, the Carlone Amendment would make the City Council the exclusive special permit granting authority for “Project Review Special Permits” as described in Section 19.20 in the city’s Zoning Ordinance. The change would restore a power that the Council (our elected officials) has had all along, but had delegated to the Planning Board, volunteers appointed by the City Manager. Unlike a moratorium, which many residents have called for to pause large-scale development during the master planning process, this procedural change would not affect smaller proposals or any “by-right” development.

The Carlone Amendment represents a reasonable response to citizens’ concerns that the rapid pace and scale of development, especially around Alewife and Fresh Pond, undermines the citywide planning process, and that special permit decisions during this critical period should be made by the policymakers who are directly accountable to voters.

Quoting the text of the online petition that Councilor Carlone is circulating in advance of the June 30 meeting when the Council will take up the amendment:

As we move forward with a process to create a citywide Master Plan, this procedural change will enable the City Council to impose reasonable conditions on large, new development projects as part of the ongoing planning process.

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40A, Section 1A, the Cambridge City Council may act a “special permit granting authority” — but as stands, the council has delegated this oversight to the Planning Board, an unelected body.

To be sure, the professionals who volunteer to serve on the Planning Board deserve our gratitude and respect – but when it comes to the big decisions, such as redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse, or large-scale development along the Alewife floodplain – we think elected policymakers ought to assume a more meaningful role in the process.

Under Article 19 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance, Project Review enables the special permit granting authority to encourage the production of affordable and middle-income housing, mitigate against the impact of added traffic, promote the use of alternative modes of transit, apply strong Urban Design criteria, and more.

Perhaps most importantly, City Council Project Review will create a better system of “checks and balances” — we will continue to draw on the expertise of the Planning Board and the Community Development Department. But with this change, the City Council will also have a say on projects that are likely to have a significant impact on abutting properties and the surrounding urban environment.

Sign the petition in support of the Carlone Amendment.

Residents may also wish to email City Councilors and to attend the June 30 meeting to express their views on this proposed change. The Council meeting will be held in Henrietta S. Attles Meeting Room at 459 Broadway (where the School Committee usually meets), not the Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

View of Wheeler St project from the Trader Joe's parking lot.

View of Wheeler St project from the Trader Joe’s parking lot.