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

What's wrong with this picture? Everything. See: http://40thorndike.org

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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.

Jane and Luciano Boglione

127 Spring Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:47 pm

We support this petition and our neighbors efforts! Let's get it right this time.

Beth Simon

Fifth Street East Cambridge
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:22 pm

I wholeheartedly concur with the petition commenters. I live in East Cambridge and support and welcome redevelopment of this building into something that is much better scaled and suited to enhance our unique neighborhood.

Mike Connolly

20 Harding Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:12 pm

As a resident of Harding Street, I stand with my East Cambridge neighbors and admire the efforts of all who are working together to address this untenable situation.

The people of East Cambridge have lived with this colossal failure of urban planning for some 40 years now -- and it's clear that DCAM (the state agency responsible for transferring the courthouse to a private developer) hasn't considered the negative impact that the office tower proposal will have on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Alister Lewis-Bowen

80 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:05 pm

Rubbish building. Rubbish proposal. Fix it and make sure the residents who have to live with it are involved this time.

Sam Murphy

158 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:03 pm

The neighborhood deserves better than the current plan for the redevelopment of the courthouse. Allowing the development to go forward as planned will be as big a mistake as building it in the first place. We need something that will better fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. I also think that we need assurance any work done on this toxic site will be done properly and safely with no negative health impact on the people who live here.

Kate Skubecz

158 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 9:02 pm

The neighborhood deserves better than the current plan for the redevelopment of the courthouse. Allowing the development to go forward as planned will be as big a mistake as building it in the first place. We need something that will better fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. I also think that we need assurance any work done on this toxic site will be done properly and safely with no negative health impact on the people who live here.

Edmund Summersby

15 Vassal Lane, Cambridge, MA 02138
Mon 24 Feb 2014 8:20 pm

I strongly support this petition, and urge the City to take all appropriate steps to prevent any further redevelopment of the Sullivan Courthouse, and to see that the site is cleared for some future use that conforms to the zoning ordinance and is in concert with the surrounding neighborhood. The right thing to do is to demolish the building.

Jennifer McConnell

94 Thorndike St
Mon 24 Feb 2014 8:10 pm

I support this petition and would like to see a development that better suits the needs of our community. I am very concerned about the traffic and parking implications of this project for the residents of East Cambridge.

Rozann Kraus

91 Chilton St
Mon 24 Feb 2014 7:42 pm

I agree that a green building that conforms to the neighborhood standards would be best in East Cambridge.
Two mistakes do not make a right.

Jonathan King

40 Essex Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 7:35 pm

After being forced to live with a grave planning error for 50 years, it is difficult to believe that the Planning Board, City Council and City Manager will repeat the error and enable an even worse development that will scar the community and cityscape for 50 more years. Tear down the building, use the public space for public benefit.

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