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.

Anne & Richard Taylor

66 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 7:17 pm

We agree with our neighbors that Legatt McCall's redevelopment plans for the Sullivan Courthouse have not been made with the appropriate consideration of what is best for our community.

Laurie A. Friedman, CNM

33 Essex Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 7:13 pm

There is NO rationale justification for addressing a historical mistake with sanctioning continued damage to this neighborhood and by extension the entire City of Cambridge. Please let's learn from our mistakes, not continue them.

David de Swaan Arons

102 Thorndike Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 6:34 pm

Stop this ridiculous travesty, don't let the State insult and punish East Cambridge residents further by allowing the proposed plan. NO WAY should a private developer be allowed to simply be given the non-conforming exemption over the heads of and to the detriment of Cambridge residents.

Seth Teller

281 Hurley Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 5:25 pm

This abomination should never have been built. We have a historic opportunity to stop it by denying the
permitting, i.e., by enforcing our own zoning rules.

The neighborhood is unanimous: this building must go!

Margaret Barnes Lenart

115 Fayerweather St.
Mon 24 Feb 2014 4:28 pm

I strongly support this petition to oppose the current redevelopment proposed by Leggat McCall, and would support a better wiser public plan for this space that better serves the neighborhood and Cambridge.

Richard Goldberg

170 Harvard St. ,Cambridge , MA 02139
Mon 24 Feb 2014 4:10 pm

The building is an eyesore. out of scale, an ecological and aesthetic eyesore. The site should should be developed, but that doesn't mean maximizing profit for private developer. It should mean putting something on the site appropriate in scale to what makes sense for the site; putting the needs of the community first rather than the wishes of private developers; thinking about what enahnces the quality of living in Cambridge and not just what generates profit, the tax base, and the continued existence of a political and bureaucratic model of Cambridge based on continual growth rather than a human community.

Rachel Wyon

283 Sidney St
Mon 24 Feb 2014 3:06 pm

As a Cambridge resident for 30 years, I am committed to smart development - development that enhances all our neighborhoods; development that contributes to a livable Cambridge and a livable planet. This proposal is not beneficial to our neighborhoods in any way.

margaret desjardins

261 LakeView Ave
Mon 24 Feb 2014 3:04 pm

this has been an eyesore for years, something in keeping with the architecture of the neighbourhood would be far more appropriate.

Maya Bittar

101 Third Street, #4
Mon 24 Feb 2014 2:38 pm

I live across the street and am not looking forward to a glass building that reflects light into my unit nor the increase in traffic in the neighborhood which is already unbearable at 6pm.

Arleen Henry

4 Percy Place
Mon 24 Feb 2014 2:34 pm

There was a time I had to go to this court house once or twice a week. It was a huge wind tunnel then and with the added height the situation will be intolerable. This is still a residential area. How do you justify allowing builders to do whatever they please?

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