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.

Mark Jaquith

213 Hurley St.
Tue 25 Feb 2014 9:29 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.

Chris Keppelman

109 Thorndike Streetr
Tue 25 Feb 2014 8:31 am

This juncture represents an opportunity for our..... hopefully.... fair city to correct a horrible blight on one of its increasingly respected and valuable historic residential neighborhoods. In very short order, retrospection will illuminate the wisdom and aesthetic value of having torn down this monstrosity and replaced it with something that adds value to the neighborhood, not detracts.

I fervently support this petition to deny any permits for corporate privatization of this piece of our neighborhood.

Robert Bench

153 Fifth Street
Tue 25 Feb 2014 8:26 am

This sale is an opportunity to do great things for our city and neighborhood. Please don't let it go to waste.

Jack Boesen

25 Suffolk St Cambridge
Tue 25 Feb 2014 6:11 am

Respect for and fidelity to the zoning ordinance requires denying this application.

Dawn Wolfe

89 Thorndike Street
Tue 25 Feb 2014 6:09 am

The vibrant East Cambridge community surrounding 40 Thorndike is home to many young families who would be negatively impacted by the current proposal. The existing Courthouse is a poor design and we have an opportunity to improve on it, not extend this legacy. The increase in traffic is a safety hazard for our children and health in this pedestrian friendly community and the parking situation will become impossible, impacting home values. I am pro-development that IMPROVES the Courthouse property, not one that extends its flaws and creates a congestion nightmare that reduces safety for our neighborhood children.

Matthew Wolfe

89 Thorndike St
Tue 25 Feb 2014 5:57 am

Please take extreme measures to mitigate traffic and parking issues associated with the redevelopment.

Ryan Pacheco

68 spring St
Tue 25 Feb 2014 12:17 am

Why not just tear the building down, and make it a park with a below ground parking garage. Put in a brick path and some trees so that it matches the court complex across the street from it.

A nice sized park area would give the residents in the neighborhood a place to spend sunny summer afternoons, give a better view, less wind, and give people a place to play with their dogs.

The land was supposed to be pubic, make it public. Keep the underground parking for municipal needs. (Works trucks, Police, ect.)

Lois DiMaio

56 Fulkerson St. EAST Cambridge Ma 02141
Mon 24 Feb 2014 11:43 pm

We have enough congestion in our city as it is..enough is enough!

Peggy Martheze

102 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 10:56 pm

As a neighbor to this building I am appalled by the current proposal and strongly urge you to deny the special permit!

Clementine Feau

Mon 24 Feb 2014 10:03 pm

Plant trees!

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