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.

Henry Lieberman

9 Chauncy St. #12, Cambridge, MA 01238
Thu 13 Mar 2014 7:53 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?

M. Carolyn Shipley

15 Laurel St. 02139
Thu 13 Mar 2014 5:25 pm

Once again the city is considering approving a building that will seriously impact traffic and congestion in Cambridge and the city still has no Master Plan that would be the basis for serious and sensible urban planning that is greatly needed. The environmental impacts of this courthouse makeover are many and all negative.


274 hurley street
Thu 13 Mar 2014 2:43 pm

Please deny this petition.

Theo Guilfoy

218 Thorndike St. Apt. 106
Thu 13 Mar 2014 12:12 pm

Please do the right thing and side with the little people instead of big developers. The developers will always be able to find places to build but when government lets them build ugly monstrosities, generations have to live with that mistake.

Edye Rulin

Thu 13 Mar 2014 9:12 am

please deny this permit.

David Teller

457 Mt Auburn St #5, Cambridge
Mon 10 Mar 2014 7:55 am

I've lived in this area in the past and that building is a monstrosity. It needs to come down and be replaced with something better fitting to the area. Please deny this permit.

Joseph Fantasia

93 Third St
Sat 8 Mar 2014 5:22 pm

At the present time there is no retail on Thorndike Street. . Between Cambridge St and Binney St there are two small food service establishments, that have been there for years.

The Developer is now proposing 20 retail units in this one block.

ECPT is calling for small retail units at below market rates for up and coming entrepreneurs

This sounds like what we currently have on Cambridge Street. Nail salons and sub shops.

lynne cayford

28 sixth st
Fri 7 Mar 2014 7:05 am

please deny this permit

Michael Monroe

18 Nevada Ave. Somerville, MA 02143
Thu 6 Mar 2014 2:10 pm

I lived in that neighborhood for years and almost bought a condo there were it not for that....that THING!

Bobbie Halliday

112 Gore St.
Thu 6 Mar 2014 12:55 pm

Deny the permit.

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