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.

Geoffrey Pingree

25 Lee St Apt 3
Sun 16 Mar 2014 3:26 pm

Also require greater energy efficiency for any new building.

Robert Camacho

24 Corporal Burns Rd.
Sun 16 Mar 2014 9:04 am

A building that size should never have been built in this neighborhood in the first place. Please do not perpetuate such a ghastly mistake.

Lisa Camacho

24 Corporal Burns Rd., Cambridge, MA
Sun 16 Mar 2014 8:32 am

The reasons for my opposition to the proposed project has been expressed many times over by other signers. I will just add my emphatic plea for a denial of the permit request.

crystal leslie

202 Lake view Avenue
Sat 15 Mar 2014 4:45 pm

Think ahead and deny this petition


1 Malcolm Rd, Cambridge, MA 02138
Sat 15 Mar 2014 2:28 pm

This petition must be denied to preserve the quality of life in this long-standing neighborhood.

Jacquelyn Smith

7 Ashburton Place
Fri 14 Mar 2014 9:09 am

I urge you to listen to the residents who are and will be impacted by your decision about this building not the desires of the developers who do and will live elsewhere. Please deny this permit!

Jamie Porreca

Reservoir St, Cambridge, 02138
Thu 13 Mar 2014 11:13 pm

Please deny this permit!!!

Joe Kirylo

59 Thorndike St
Thu 13 Mar 2014 9:54 pm

Cambridge is a unique city. Its elected public officials must decide if three million dollars in new
revenue,short term construction jobs and 1500 permanant jobs and the traffic that comes with those job is worth changing the character of a neighborhood. Our city has a triple A bond rating. At what cost does the city really benefit from this glass tower. The developer in time will move on. Now is the time to make long lasting changes for the city. The city is made up of neighborhoods and neighborhoods are made up of people. A few more residences,a few less jobs, and a little more open space and what a neighborhood it could be.


15 Hilliard St, Cambridge
Thu 13 Mar 2014 9:32 pm

I used to work in this building and always felt completely cut off and alienated from the surrounding neighborhood that's streets functioned solely as the "parking lot" for the workers in the building. I often thought how miserable it must be for the residents who lived there.

Henry Lieberman

9 Chauncy St. #12, Cambridge, MA 01238
Thu 13 Mar 2014 7:54 pm

(From an 8-year resident of East Cambridge:)
Cambridge is best served by a balance of residential and sensitively-designed commercial development. It's important that we defend the boundaries of the modestly sized East Cambridge residential neighborhood between Camb. St. and Charles, Third and Fulkerson. Commercial development can always "outbid" residential and leads to the eventual disappearance or marginalization of residential. Why fight with the neighborhood over this inappropriate and unnecessary development?

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