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.

Ann Sweeney

87 Lake View Avenue
Mon 24 Feb 2014 2:28 pm

Please fix what's broken and provide a better alternative for this space and this neighborhood than what is currently on the table.

Peter Johnson

255 Lakeview Ave
Mon 24 Feb 2014 2:24 pm

Two wrongs don't make a right in architecture either.

Heather Queyrouze

428a Cambridge St.
Mon 24 Feb 2014 1:49 pm

This building is a monstrosity in our neighborhood. The space could be much better redesigned in a way more in line with the look/feel of East Cambridge. Help us make East Cambridge a better place, not worse!

ilan levy

148 spring st
Mon 24 Feb 2014 1:30 pm

This enormous, brutalist building was a mistake when it was built.

“I think it truly is best imploded”

City Manager Robert Healy, May 2010.

Wenhao Tien

88 Thorndike Street, Cambridge, MA 02141
Mon 24 Feb 2014 12:45 pm

This building is totally out of scale and unreasonable for the residents to tolerate further.

Michael Hawley

101 Third Street
Mon 24 Feb 2014 12:22 pm

The proposal would abruptly add 2,000 or more daily corporate commuters, and permanently transform the neighborhood from "quiet residential area" to "corporate office park."

This is simply unacceptable.

Nina You

101 Third Street, Cambridge
Mon 24 Feb 2014 12:20 pm

I am a diagonal abutter, residing in the old 1827 church at Third & Thorndike: a state-registered landmark, and directly across the street from the Bulfinch Courthouse, a nationally registered building.

There is no question: The proposed development would significantly damage the integrity and character of this historic, quiet residential neighborhood. The original Sullivan Building did incalculable damage to the neighborhood, and this proposal only makes it worse.

Silvia Rodrigues

28 Leonard Ave., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

M. Anderson

411 Franklin St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Carolyn Duffy

326 Prospect St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

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