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.

Alan Kauzlaric

218 Thorndike St. #210
Wed 23 Apr 2014 8:42 am

The shadow 40 casts over Bullfinch is so unfortunate. Traffic around East Cambridge has been increasing and will continue to increase with all the new and 'to code' development in the area. I believe the results of reactivating 40 Thorndike would be devastating to our RESIDENTIAL neighborhood. I implore you not to allow its proposed redevelopment.

Sarah Shelton Walker

121 Thorndike St Apt 2R
Thu 10 Apr 2014 7:57 am

Please do not let this happen to our neighborhood! The infastructure of our neighborhood, from parking spaces, to traffic on 3rd St and Cambridge (try driving north on 3rd at 5pm), to commuters using the green line at Lechmere are all already over used, crowded and cannot support the proposed increase in area residents. Not to mention how the development would contribute to rising rents and costs in our neighborhood.

aaron tang

9 west broadway
Thu 3 Apr 2014 11:30 pm

rid it. was a mistake, needs to be put down before it makes things worse.

Carole Bellew

257 Charles Street
Thu 3 Apr 2014 12:29 pm

I am extremely disappointed in the process that this building has taken, by the owners, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and now the future owners Leggatt McCall in how they are handling this.

Max Eskin

Thu 3 Apr 2014 12:18 pm

Please deny this permit.

Kate Aisenberg, Ph.D, Psy.D

Sun 30 Mar 2014 6:36 pm

The building is not healthy inside and utterly out of scale with the rest of East Cambridge.
The developer need to ensure the goodwill of the community when s/he develop.

Dianne Haas

152 Pearl St #4
Tue 25 Mar 2014 8:18 am

Please deny this permit.

Jonathan Adams

51 8th Street, cambridge, ma 02141
Mon 24 Mar 2014 4:02 pm

Please deny current petitions. This building is an eyesore and atrocity in a beautiful section of Cambridge. This community is not an adequate or appropriate location for this monstrocity. Please do not allow redevelopment, this building should be knocked down and turned into a park if anything.

Ann Fleck-Henderson

113 Richdale Avenue, #11
Mon 24 Mar 2014 3:12 pm

Please deny current petitions and work for a more appropriate size and uses, especially considering the urgent city-wide need for affordable housing.

Ben Morse

309 Hurley St. #2
Sun 23 Mar 2014 12:10 pm

I am deeply concerned about the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse building in East Cambridge. As an East Cambridge resident (and a Cambridge and Somerville resident for years before that), I have always considered the building a blight on an otherwise charming neighborhood. To perpetuate its size and privatize its use will only worsen the problem.

I am especially concerned that this building, whose land was expressly committed to public use, has now been sold to a private corporation. Furthermore, its massive, out-of-scale size was only permitted due to the public nature of its use. If Leggat McCall does get to develop the site, they must do so within local zoning laws for private construction.

Our neighborhood already has a horrible crush of traffic at rush hour due to the nearby highway, T station, and the mall. Bringing in more parking spaces for this development will worsen the problem.

Also, the "shiny future" aesthetic that is creeping into our area from Kendall Square is already gross, and will look embarassingly outdated very soon. I am concerned that another eager developer will bring that garish look to the middle of East Cambridge.

East Cambridge is already experiencing a slow but sure financial growth -- witness the recent influx of businesses on Cambridge St. and 3rd St. I have already seen longtime families leaving the area. What we do not need is an expensive condo/office space catapulting this development into outright gentrification.

For all these reasons, please deny Laggat McCall the special permits requested, and consider taking any steps possible to reverse the possibly illegal sale of the land to that corporation. At very least, force them to respect the existing zoning laws!

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