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.

Rebecca Lieberson

315 Harvard St. #6, Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

R.Kevin Ryan

4 Bancroft St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Kathryn Erat

Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Barry Abel

625 Putnam Ave. Apt. 200, Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Rachel Zimmerman

281 Hurley St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Brian Conway

175 Chestnut St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Adam Villa

18 Palermo St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Amber Villa

18 Palermo St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Matthew Koslowski

394 Windsor St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

Aarin Murray

18 Portsmouth St., Cambridge
Sun 9 Mar 2014 7:05 am

Please: deny this permit.

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