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.

Theo Guilfoy

218 Thorndike St. Apt. 106
Wed 26 Feb 2014 10:55 pm

Please be a voice for the little people who will be deleteriously impacted by the plans for the Sullivan Courthouse.
Developers will always be able to find properties to develop, make a profit and move on. But it will always be the residents who will have to live with this….for generations.

Jose A Biasella

291A Hurley St
Wed 26 Feb 2014 9:10 pm

I have lived in East Cambridge for 46 years and I remember when this monstrosity was being built. I remember when I was a child, the open pit looked more like a man made lake, only there was an terrible smell emanating from the site. As I've grown older, I learned to resent this unattractive beast more each day. Not only is it a wind tunnel but it casts a permanent shadow in the neighborhood north and east of it. I would fully support razing the structure or at the very least, reducing its height dramatically so that it would be in line with the surrounding neighborhood. I am fully opposed to the "special permit" that would allow any transformation of this albatross.

Grace Lee

89 Thorndike St. #3
Wed 26 Feb 2014 9:10 pm

Please don't let this great opportunity become another expensive and destructive mistake, and please support something that will bring life and vitality to this great city and neighborhood!

Quinton Zondervan

235 Cardinal Medeiros Ave
Wed 26 Feb 2014 5:34 pm

Let's go back to the original proposal: demolish the building and make it a park! Let's plant some trees for a change.

Eric Grunebaum

98 Montgomery St., Cambridge, MA
Wed 26 Feb 2014 3:17 pm

I work in East Cambridge and lived on Windsor St. for 10 years and I wholeheartedly support the neighborhood's right to insure that the site is used in keeping with their vision of a human-scaled community, rather than maximizing the state's profit on the sale.

Julie Alailima

James Way, East Cambridge
Wed 26 Feb 2014 8:16 am

I support economic growth in East Cambridge, but I do not support the consequences of filling this massive eyesore with people. It is too big. Also, with parking and congestion already being a problem for locals, it will end up being totally unmanageable.

Helen Kobek

Gore Street
Tue 25 Feb 2014 8:45 pm

The City of Cambridge can - and should- do better than this proposal. I urge you to deny this proposed development.

Judy Kobek

Gore Street, Cambridge
Tue 25 Feb 2014 8:31 pm

The building is hideous and completely out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. We need to make the area more livable, not less.

John Ratliff

218 Thorndike Street, #106, Cambridge 02141
Tue 25 Feb 2014 4:38 pm

Please deny the Application for Special permits for the Sullivan Courthouse and develop the parcel for public benefit in a manner that befits the character of our neighborhood.

Kristin Ellis-Levy

148 Spring St., Cambridge, MA 02141
Tue 25 Feb 2014 4:10 pm

Please take this opportunity to rectify the biggest architectural and city planning mistake in the city of Cambridge.

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