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.

Michael Knapp

97 spring street.
Sun 2 Mar 2014 10:30 am

Do the right thing for the residence and your great city. You will have to live with this decision for the rest of your life, but Cambridge will be effected for generations to come.

Jane Hilburt-Davis

75 Cambridge Parkway 02142
Sun 2 Mar 2014 10:29 am

It's time to do the right thing on this spot. Deny this permit for the good of the neighborhood and the city of Cambridge.

Bjorn Poonen

303 3rd St Unit 416
Sat 1 Mar 2014 8:52 pm

Surely the people of the city and state can think of a better solution to this problem.

Bethany Ericson

Lilac Court, Cambridge
Sat 1 Mar 2014 8:22 pm

As biotech buildings have built up around my house by Kendall, I've lost the view from my yard, and can't open the windows in summer without it sounding like I live in a refridgerator due to the rootop venting units. It's getting nuts with all the cars coming in, and I can't go anywhere from my house at rush hour easily. I don't want to see this keep happening to the residents of this area. There are better solutions that build community, not cause stress and pollution.

Nadeem Mazen

7 Center Street, Apt 23, Cambridge, MA 02139
Fri 28 Feb 2014 4:36 pm

The proposal, as it currently stands, is the not the best outcome for Cambridge. We can find a better solution that works for both the developers and neighborhood stakeholders, but, only through a more inclusive and community-centered process.

Susan Lapides

451 Huron Ave, Cambridge
Fri 28 Feb 2014 12:07 pm

I strongly support this petition to oppose the current redevelopment proposed by Leggat McCall.

Terri Turner

31 Bay Street, Cambridge, MA
Fri 28 Feb 2014 10:56 am

Cambridge has an important opportunity to say NO to a structure that violates not only the cityscape but also its citizens!

Rozann Kraus

91 Chilton St
Fri 28 Feb 2014 8:28 am

This is a chance to correct a longstanding assault on this East Cambridge nieghborhood and our City. Keep Cambridge a balanced and diverse place to live, work and prosper. Say NO! to another monstrosity of inhumanity.

Belinda Watt

79 Dana Street
Thu 27 Feb 2014 8:31 pm

Please plan a new building for this site--one that is of correct urban scale and relates well to its surroundings. Please do not re-use the Sullivan Courthouse in its current form. Please do not add to the traffic congestion of the neighborhood.

allen Pacheco

68 Spring Street
Thu 27 Feb 2014 12:38 am

By allowing private ownership of the abandoned courthouse the door will be flung wide open to allow further erosion of the zoning restrictions in this area. Developers will consider this an invitation to expand upon the walling-in of the area.
This building has been plagued with structural problems since the first piles were driven decades ago. It is riddled with cracks and a re-skin may prove to be dangerous and ineffective.
It may prove to be an unpopular decision with the state and the developers, but these permits should be denied.

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