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.

Susan Kirylo

59 Thorndike St
Sat 22 Mar 2014 8:55 pm

Born into East Cambridge in 1959. My grandmother fought the battle of the initial Sullivan Courthouse and let's not make the same mistake twice!

Erich Schutz

225 Summer St #2 Somerville Ma
Sat 22 Mar 2014 8:53 pm

I am a person who has been enjoying the East Cambridge neighborhood for years. I cannot believe that they want to change night into day with the proposed lighting.

Lexie Kirylo

59 Thorndike st
Sat 22 Mar 2014 8:52 pm

East Cambridge and its residents deserve better than an in-and-out development company without the best interest of the neighborhood in its vision. Keep East Cambridge a neighborhood!

Jay Featherstone

166 Brookline St. Cambridge Ma 02130
Sat 22 Mar 2014 5:42 pm

This building is out of scale with the site the neighborhood and the character of an East Cambridge that stays a good place to live. It's also very ugly. Surely we and you can do better than this.

Vera Ventura

17 Otis street
Tue 18 Mar 2014 4:26 pm

The building is an eye sore and blocks our beautiful view of East Cambridge.

Julian Lewis

313 Cambridge St
Tue 18 Mar 2014 9:53 am

I do not approve the current plan as it stands. The height of the building is my main concern and I am optimistic that the state and developer will come up with an appropriate RESPONSIBLE PLAN to redevelop this site.

Rika Henderson

Tue 18 Mar 2014 9:52 am

Please put the needs and wishes of the already existing community ahead of the wants of a developer. Cambridge is our home.

Safrya Browne-Cherisme

285 Third street
Mon 17 Mar 2014 5:53 pm

please deny this permit

Phyllis Bretholtz

65 Antrim Street, Cambridge, 02139
Mon 17 Mar 2014 5:12 pm

Please deny the application for special permits #288. The character and sense of community here in Cambridge is at stake. As a City Council, please please listen to neighbors, other residents whose quality of life is impacted by development in every part of the city. You represent us all. You need to consider what we, the residents want and need. You live among us. We elected you to represent us. As people are stacked up in tall buildings, in apartments or offices or labs, this is not conducive to building relationships, neighborhoods - a sense of community. Development at the expense of community is much too high a price to pay. Please deny the permits and development requests before you this evening and "wisely enforce both the letter and the spirit of zoning laws; 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. We all deserve better. Thank you.

Glenna Wyman

PO Box 410102, East Cambridge, MA 02141
Sun 16 Mar 2014 11:53 pm

Please deny this permit!

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