Petition: DENY THE PERMITS (SP#288) for Proposed Redevelopment of Sullivan Courthouse

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To:Cambridge Mayor; City Council; City Manager; Planning Board; Head of Community Development; State Representatives Decker & Toomey; Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection
From:Concerned Residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts
Date:23 February 2014

We, concerned residents of Cambridge, hereby make it known to our City representatives that:

We vigorously oppose the redevelopment proposed by Leggat McCall for the Sullivan Courthouse.

We would applaud development that is wisely planned, that conforms with existing zoning rules, and that has a character appropriate for this quiet, historic, residential neighborhood.

Any new development should conform to the zoned 80’ height limit adjoining a 35' residential area, and should not result in a significantly more damaging impact than what came before. Whatever is done here should respect the historic founding gift, which gave this property to the people of Middlesex County for public use forever. The donors demanded the highest standards of design and construction, and they realized that vision beautifully. That trust established a healthy balance of public and private space around which a vibrant and dedicated community could blossom.

However, as most in the City and Commonwealth would agree: the Sullivan Courthouse Building should never have been built. The process that created it was corrupt and illegitimate. At 22 stories nearly 300 feet in height and over 500,000 square feet, it is wildly inappropriate in size for the neighborhood, badly built, riddled with asbestos, had inadequate parking, created a wind tunnel, and eventually had to be abandoned because it was an environmental hazard, among other problems. It was a very big mistake.

Most people would also agree: when you make a mistake, you should clean it up. The Commonwealth has not cleaned up this one. Instead, it seeks profit from it. It auctioned the property to the highest bidder in disregard of any sensible neighborhood plan, and is exacting such a high price that any developer is forced to repurpose the full bulk of this building to pay for the State’s mistake. But this doesn’t fix the mistake. 
 It perpetuates it, and in many ways, makes it worse. It shovels the whole burden of that mistake onto developers, and ultimately, onto the community. And it privatizes a civic-minded founding gift that was clearly intended to be public forever. This is wrong.

The Sullivan Building is fully amortized, effectively abandoned and an environmental hazard. 
 It was a mistake. It needs to go. This small piece of property should be approached with the duty of care, visionary enthusiasm and public excellence that put East Cambridge on the map in the first place. 
 And thus, we ask our representatives:

Please deny the Application for Special Permits #288.
Please deny the request for waiver of project review under Mass. Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).
Please deny the request to lease the 425 public spaces from the municipal garage.
Please declare the nonconforming status of the failed building to be effectively terminated.
Please wisely enforce both the letter and the spirit of zoning laws and insist that any redevelopment of the former Courthouse site respects the finest standards of public planning, strengthens the historic integrity of the neighborhood, and conforms properly to local limits.

East Cambridge deserves better.

Jan Devereux

255 Lakeview Ave
Tue 25 Feb 2014 4:08 pm

I work in East Cambridge and the Sullivan Courthouse is a daily reminder that a prior group of public servants were derelict in their duty to preserve the neighborhood's history and human scale esthetic. Let's not make the same mistake twice.

Mehron Kugler

Tue 25 Feb 2014 4:05 pm

This building should never have been built. The city needs to take it down -- it's a violation of height laws and is infected with asbestos. City of Cambridge needs to cut its losses and redevelop correctly. What a shame a historic building was smashed to make way for this. No private corporation should be allowed to get its hands on the building, ever. I support this petition.

Annette Ghelfi

278 Hurley Street, 1st Floor Cambridge, 02141
Tue 25 Feb 2014 3:48 pm

I would love to see great things come to East Cambridge. The courthouse is sort of a black cloud hanging over the neighborhood.

Barry Phillips

4 Ashburton Place #2/Cambridge, MA 02139
Tue 25 Feb 2014 3:36 pm

There has GOT to be some check on the ongoing destruction of Cambridge's middle-class neighborhoods.

M. Eastly

One Forty-Five Fifth
Tue 25 Feb 2014 1:35 pm

I have lived in East Cambridge for 19 years and have grown to abhor this monstrosity. It causes me go out of my way to avoid walking past it because of the horrendous wind, even in Summer! It has caused me to skip offers on two separate abutting properties because of its giant shadow and aesthetics. Parking is already tough, especially for those of us that have small children, and availability would likely deteriorate if high-density commercial development is allowed.

Please, please do your part to help fix the negative impact it has on the neighborhood.

Karen Zee

Tue 25 Feb 2014 12:44 pm

The courthouse building was never appropriate for the residential neighborhood of East Cambridge. Please enforce the zoning laws to ensure that any redevelopment of the site is in accordance with the character of the neighborhood and the needs of its residents.

Susan Juretschke

10 Gimore St., #2, Cambridge, MA 02139
Tue 25 Feb 2014 12:19 pm

I totally support this petition. Let's make development in Cambridge responsive to the needs of residents.

Jim Mulroy

109 Thorndike Street
Tue 25 Feb 2014 10:00 am

Please consider the quality of life of your City of Cambridge citizens and not any financial rewards gained by turning 40 Thorndike St. over to private hands. We value our city and our neighborhood. A commercial redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse cannot possibly benefit the citizens of East Cambridge. It only has huge downsides. Please consider the needs of your citizens and deny this permit. Respectfully, Jim Mulroy

Aravind Srinivasan

218 Thorndike St
Tue 25 Feb 2014 9:54 am

This is a great opportunity to correct a mistake. Please do not squander it. The neighborhood and the city will be better for it.

I urge you to deny the Application for Special Permits and enforce the zoning laws of East Cambridge.

Mark Jaquith

213 Hurley St.
Tue 25 Feb 2014 9:41 am

This building has never fit with the neighborhood or any good plans for it. The only right thing to to is to deny the change of use and start to correct a fifty year old outrage.

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