Welcome, thank everyone for coming. I’m Jan Devereux. It’s good to see such strong interest in coming together as a neighborhood to talk about what we value and to share our concerns. We billed this meeting as a discussion forum, and it will be, but first I’d like to introduce my neighbors -- Peggy Barnes Lenart, Jay Yesselman, Lisa Camacho, Terry Drucker and Ann Sweeney (who unfortunately couldn’t be here tonight). They will help me set the stage for our discussion. We also are happy to have leaders from other neighborhood groups here tonight and some aides for local and state officials.It’s our first meeting so our goals are evolving as our understanding increases. I’m going to start with an overview of some of what we’ve learned in the past month or so. One of our goals is to raise awareness about the extent of the new development in around our area.
For those who don’t know me, I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, the last 14 near the end of Lakeview Ave across from the car dealership. I raised 3 grown children in Cambridge. When my family and I moved here from Manhattan, in 1993, we chose to live in Cambridge (over Boston or one of the suburbs) because it was a uniquely livable and diverse small city. There was a strong sense of community and neighborhood. While the city has always been very densely populated, most of the housing was on a human scale and there was a distinct sense of place and history. And independent retail still flourished.Most of what drew me and us all to Cambridge and this neighborhood still exists but changes have been accelerating lately. I am concerned and I think many of you are too – which is why we are all are here on a Monday night.One of the reason we’re here tonight is to talk about change. How to plan for change. How to manage change. How to lobby for change.
We’re also here to discuss what we love about our neighborhood.
And what we don’t love.You don’t need me to tell you that the traffic is worse than ever on the parkway -- or that it’s getting harder and harder to afford toraise a family, or to retire on a fixed income, in Cambridge.
Or that it’s getting tougher for independent retailers to make a go of it. Though apparently the current housing boom has created a huge demand for mattresses.
A lot has changed over the past 20-odd years – Danehy Park opened 1990,rent control ended in 1995, and the cost of housing has climbed steadily, even as the global economy faltered. The upward trend probably won’t change, as the Cambridge housing market appears immune to the laws of supply and demand. We have close proximity and Red Line access to Boston, major universities and research labs, and now the innovation engine of Kendall Square is fuelling an apparently insatiable demand for market-rate housing – and with only 7 square miles very little un- or under-developed land on which to expand the supply. The next frontier is right down the road – Alewife and the area along Concord Ave toward Belmont.Like many of you in this room, I probably couldn’t afford to live in Cambridge if I didn’t already live here.
There have been some significant demographic changes over the past 30 years, too.The decline in children between 10-19 as a percent of the population is the most striking loss – down 34.5%. In the same 30-year period we also saw a big drop in the population of seniors over 70 – down 15%.Cambridge has one of the lowest percentages of families with children in the US (16.7%) – lower than Boston (22.9%), Seattle (19.2%) and San Francisco (18%). It’s not that Cambridge isn’t still a great place to raise a family but the cost and supply of family housing makes it tough.
Other things haven’t changed much since the 1950s – and that’s one of the biggest challenges for our area. Fresh Pond Mall and the Trader Joe’s shopping center across the street remain auto-centered and an obstacle to the city’s goal to redevelop this parcel into a new walkable town center. The two properties are owned by the same family.Because walking or biking along the parkway is unappealing and risky, and because most of our neighborhood is more than ½ mile to the Alewife T, our area is perhaps more car-dependent than other parts of towns. We also have a lot of gas stations!
My neighbors and I got pulled into this issue because we attended hearings earlier this year about 2 proposed developments – one at the former Tokyo site and another on New St . Since then we’ve learned a lot more. Our concerns are no longer about a couple of new buildings, but about the whole planning and decision making process. And we concerned about the surge in growth citywide, not only in our own backyards.
These are some statistics compiled by Richard Krushnic who’s a member of the Cambridge Residents Alliance. With the surge of commercial development especially around Kendall Square (between 2011-13 the commercial inventory rose 35.6% over the 2010 base in s.f.), there is immense pressure on the city to solve the housing problem -- and immense demand from all over the world to invest in a piece of the Cambridge real estate market. Between 2011-13, almost 9,500 new units of housing were added – a 21.5% increase over the residential base in 2010 – yet demand, and prices, have not cooled. In market terms, the Fresh Pond-Alewife area is the last frontier. Our area is literally the end of the (Red) Line and the only remaining part of the city with significant under-developed property. The gold rush is on, and if (like us) you haven’t been paying close attention you may have missed that our neighborhood borders where a great deal of the new development is taking place.
Looking just at residential development since 2011 you can see that Alewife is booming.Richard’s research indicates that we are already at or at least near 100% of projected residential build-out for 2030-35. More than a decade ahead of schedule.We think it’s time to pause. Take stock. Review goals & plan for growth.
The vast majority of this new housing is market rate “luxury” units, mostly 1 and 2 BR units. Cambridge follows the “inclusionary” model for affordable housing in new development, and the total number of subsidized units set aside for low-income residents works out to be around about 11.5% of the total. That won’t make a serious dent in preserving the socio-economic and demographic diversity that a healthy city needs. There has been talk of increasing the inclusionary percent to 25% but that would take a lot of political will and capital.And while building near the Red Line is smart in some respects, it’s not a panacea for the increased congestion. People still rely on cars for many non-commuting needs. Our neighborhood is ringed by the parkway and the least accessible to a T stop. Many of us are still very car dependent.
If you look at the map you have as a handout you can see where the recent construction feeding into Rt 16 and the parkway has been concentrated. Since 2010 in the Alewife/North Cambridge area alone, 826 units have been completed and another 1,626 are in the pipeline – that’s 2,500 total new units just since 2010. That amounts to a 6% increase on the city’s entire 2010 housing inventory in our area.
Here are a few new buildings you may have noticed.Built in 2010 by AbodeZ, same developer that is constructing on Concord Ave by Trader Joe’s and is proposing 93 more units next door on New St.
This is Phase I of the Concord & Wheeler St project. 61 units + retail on ground floor. Phase II next door where Bank of America is will add another 48 units. It’s located at a very busy intersection by the Trader Joe’s rotary.
This is the newly completed Atmark building near the old BBN complex. It’s accessibility to the T would be improved if a proposed bike/pedestrian bridge is built over the commuter RR tracks. The idea of a multi-use bridge has long been discussed, and the feasibility is finally being studied for $375,000.
A cluster of 5 massive buildings on the dead-end Cambridge Park Drive will yield a total of 1,562 units by the time what’s permitted is complete in the next couple of years.
This new building will be right across the street from the prior building. That’s the Pfizer building at left at the end of the cul-de-sac. In the distance at right is the Forrester building on Acorn Park Drive off Rt. 2. There are wetlands in between the 2 complexes.
This new building is on the former Faces nightclub site. It’s set very close to Route 2….in part because the lot is so close to the wetlands.
The elephant in the room is the environmental impact this surge of development around the Alewife T is having, especially on Alewife Brook Reservation, which sits on the Mystic River floodway.The city commissioned a Climate Change Vulnerability Study after Super Storm Sandy. It was supposed to be released in December but has been delayed until summer.The Friends of Alewife Reservation went to court and got an injunction to stall plans to build a 300-room hotel near Alewife, but that’s a stopgap measure.
2,839 new units are a lot to absorb in a decade. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that we are trying, and not really succeeding, to solve one problem – the demand for and high cost of housing -- and creating a host of other problems for residents and the environment in the process. Traffic not the least of it. The last planning study for the Concord Alewife area was published in 2006, based on information compiled in 2003-05. Few of the goals for new streets and walking/biking connections have been met. We are not yet seeing new significant amenities for the community to compensate for the impact of more density. And we may not unless we make ourselves heard in greater numbers than up to now.
The good news is that we are at a unique political moment. We have 4 new city councilors, a new city manager, and several high-profile projects (the Sullivan Courthouse, the Foundry, the Harvard Sq micro-units, and New St.) that have ignited public interest in more closely scrutinizing the planning and permitting process. There is gathering momentum and growing public concern to leverage and disrupt the status quo of rubber-stamping these large projects. We have been talking and meeting with the leaders of other neighborhood groups – several of whom are here tonight – we all believe this is the right political moment to press for a new citywide master plan, which was last undertaken in 1993 with updates in 2007. Peggy, Jay, Lisa and I have met with some of our City Councillors over the past few weeks and they are listening to our concerns. Councillor Dennis Carlone has a petition for a new master plan, which his aide Mike Connolly will share with everyone to sign, if you haven’t already online. Councillor Leland Cheung submitted a policy order at tonight’s Council meeting asking the city manager to confer with the CDD on the feasibility of updating the Concord Alewife study and also extending it to include the area along Fresh Pond Parkway between Sozio and Huron. Councillor Marc McGovern and CouncillorCarlone have both participated in meetings with the developer of the New St project and with Stuart Dash at the CDD. We are meeting with Councillor Craig Kelley tomorrow.
But ultimately the power rests with the city manager, who oversees the CDD’s planning staff and appoints the (volunteer) planning board. The PB doesn’t answer to the manager though. They are independent, which raises some questions of accountability in the absence of a clear master plan. They follow zoning and zoning is a blunt instrument for planning appropriate types and uses.
Every city in the Commonwealth is required by state law to have a master plan and to update it regularly. Ours was done in 1993, reviewed and updated in 2007 and supplemented by area studies and zoning changes. This results in piecemeal decisions – who’s looking at the big picture?Developing a new master plan would invite broader public participation in setting new planning goals, and would produce more specific design guidelines and likely some rezoning to better balance appropriate growth with continued livability for everyone. But ultimately it’s up to the city manager to agree to do another one.
First planning board hearing in February. No decision. The developer has a list of 25 questions to answer at the next hearing on Tues., April 8. Important for us to show up and to submit comments. Numbers matter.
Problems with converting industrial sites on New St to residential – the walk to the T through the parking lot of the shopping center is neither easy nor safe. No sidewalks!
The outletthrough the Sozio rotary isalready dangerous and clogged. Right turn only onto the parkway. Or cars have to travel on Bay State Rd and cut through small neighborhood side streets to reach Concord Ave.
Ok so this restaurant has been closed for years and is an eyesore…
But this?! Neighborhood context? Land that isn’t the building is parking lot for 20 cars. Set closer to street than residential would have to be. Concerns about driveway on Vassal and proximity to Tobin School.
Unsuitable design in a historic neighborhood. Casts huge shadow over Winthrop Park. Small luxury units (500-700 sf) with no parking. Next hearing before the Cambridge Historic Commission is April 3 at 6 pm (Cambridge Senior Center).
We invited everyone here to discuss the impact of the development boom on: traffic congestion and the public transport system, the safety of walkers and bikers, the environment, affordability and socio-economicdiversity.In short, the impact you may see on the overall quality of life that has traditionally made our neighborhood such a desirable place to live.
We want to leave you with some specific steps you can take.Thank you all for coming. This meeting is just the beginning. We look forward to working together building a stronger sense of community through a shared purpose.
Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, March 24, 2014
• Welcome & Introductions
• Overview of Recent Development Trends
• Updates on proposed developments:
75 New St., Tokyo (307 FPP), 57 JFK St.
• Discussion & Questions
• Calls to Action
Fresh Pond Residents Alliance.
We are your neighbors:
• Jan Devereux, Lakeview Ave.
• Peggy Barnes Lenart, Fayerweather St.
• Jay Yesselman, Vassal Lane
• Lisa Camacho, Corporal Burns
• Terry Drucker, Chilton St.
• Ann Sweeney, Lakeview Ave
Demographic changes since 1980:
Cambridge total population increased 10% --
UP from 95,322 to 105,162
Number of children ages 0-19 decreased 18% --
DOWN from 20,987 to 17,307
Number of children 10-19 decreased 28%
DOWN from 13,426 to 9,706
As % of population, the biggest losses were:
kids ages 10-19 (-34.5%) & seniors 70+ (-15%).
Development Surge since 2010
EXISTING Residential Base Citywide 2010:
44,000 units (49,000,000 s.f)
NEW units in Alewife/N. Cambridge since 2010:
826 built + 1,626 proposed = 2,502 new units
+6% to base in this area alone since 2010.
About 2.5m s.f. will be added with these
Cambridge Proposed/In Development
Commercial Residential Residential & Commercial
Sq Ft Units Sq Ft Sq Ft
Existing Citywide 2010 34,838,609 44,000 49,000,000 83,838,609
North Point 2,185,000 3,247 3,247,000 5,432,000
Central Square 227,500 2,100 2,100,000 2,327,500
Osborn Triangle 1,528,200 891 890,500 2,418,700
Kendall Square 7,000,000 1,500 1,500,000 8,500,000
Alewife 1,474,600 1,727 1,727,000 3,201,600
Total Proposed/In Development 12,415,300 9,465 9,464,500 21,879,800
% Increase Proposed/In Development 35.6% 21.5% 19.3% 26.1%
Over 2010 Existing Development
Completed, In Construction, Permitted or
Permitting 2011-2013 (3 years)
Residential Sq Ft
Completed or Permitted or
in Construction Permitting Total % of 2030
2011-2013 2011-2013 2011-2013 Buildout
851,000 397,000 1,248,000 38.4%
21,000 46,000 67,000 3.2%
0 0 0 0.0%
144 260,000 260,144 17.3%
1,420,000 307,000 1,727,000 100.0%
2,292,144 1,010,000 3,302,144 34.9%
What’s Missing & Overlooked?
• Affordable housing….
– Inclusionary zoning = 630 units since 1995
– Lost to expiring use: Walden Park, 700 Huron.
– In 2020 Rindge Towers, Briston Arms will expire
• Transit-centered housing not a miracle:
– “Everyone on bikes!” What about
elderly, infirm, winter, and safety of riding in traffic
– Red Line at capacity now
– Buses aren’t immune to gridlock (20 buses:1 train)
– Can’t control regional traffic on Rt. 16/Rt. 2CHARLES TEAGUE 2013
A Unique Political Moment?
• 4 new City Councillors (Dennis Carlone, Marc
McGovern, Nadeem Mazen & Dennis Benzan)
• New City Manager (Healy out, Rossi in)
• Several high-profile projects igniting public
concern & interest in planning process:
Sullivan Courthouse, Essex St, Foundry,
Harvard Sq. micro-units on JFK St.
• Neighborhood groups rallying around to press
for new master plan (CRA, NAEC, ACN, HSDF)
Who calls the planning shots?
The City Manager (appointed by Council)
• Appoints Planning Board (volunteers)
• Directs CDD planning staff
Planning board doesn’t answer to city manager
• Hearings, often too late to stop projects
• Decisions made piecemeal, project-by-project
City Council votes on zoning changes. Residents can
petition the Council for an amendment. Council can
ask City Manager to initiate new master plan.
9 Elements of a Master Plan (MA 81-D)
• Goals & policies as basis for decision making
• Land use (density/intensity vs. capacity/services)
• Housing strategies balanced for all citizens
• Economic development
• Natural & cultural resource protection
• Open space protection
• Services & facilities forecast
• Circulation systems
• Implementation: municipal action plan
World’s Most Opinionated Zip Code:
It’s your turn to weigh in on what you
see happening, and what you want to
for the future of our area.
We make more impact by working
• Please be succinct and leave time for others.
• Respect the diversity of opinion.
• We are all still learning!
Calls to Action
• Sign Dennis Carlone’s petition for master plan.
• Attend 4/8 planning board hearing for 75 New
St. (speak or submit comments). Numbers
• Talk to us about getting involved in the group.
We need your expertise and ideas!
• Stay informed and engaged.