Protect Our Central Square Neighborhoods!
No to Twining/Normandy Tower!
- Central Square is the crossroads of four major Cambridge low-rise residential neighborhoods – Cambridgeport, Riverside, Mid-Cambridge and Area 4/Port.
- Neighborhood residents and businesses have been intensively engaged in planning for its future for more than 6 years, starting with the Red Ribbon Commission, and continuing through the Forest City battle and C2 deliberations, and innumerable open meetings and charrettes.
- A central point of agreement has been the need to prevent Kendall Square high- rise and MIT-driven development from marching into Central Square.
- Twining/Normandy Partners have now filed a petition to up-zone one area on Mass Ave. in Lafayette Square, north of Jill Brown Rhone Park, to allow a high-rise, mostly market rate 19 story tower where the Quest building is. That height is 2 ½ times what is currently allowed. It locates a high-rise tower in precisely the area where such buildings have been rejected by the surrounding communities. This oversize tower will blight Lafayette Square for the next fifty years if allowed to proceed.
- The affordable component - building for example 200 units with 20 affordable and 10 moderate (which is really is not affordable in terms of low! income)- will be overshadowed by the impact of those other 170 "market rate" units which raise rents in the surrounding neighborhoods thereby forcing more lower income people out. Section 8 vouchers will become increasingly useless in Cambridge as rents continue to increase.
- Arguments that building more market rate and luxury units lowers surrounding rents has no relevance to Cambridge, just as they have no relevance to Manhattan and any other community with a -1% vacancy rate, desirable housing locations, and an endless supply of people with money coming to the city.
- If built this tower (and those that follow) will result in enormous profits for the developers, while disrupting the character and fabric of our community, and setting a precedent for height that we will regret.
- In August 2012, responding to testimony from hundreds of residents, the City Council rejected the Forest City/Ratner proposal to build a 14-story residential tower across from Jill Brown Rhone Park, where Main Street meets Mass. Ave. This petition violates those well-documented residents’ concerns for protecting Cambridge from over-development and ignores the thousands of hours that residents have invested in protecting Central Square from voracious developers over the past years.
- This area of Central Square is currently zoned for a maximum height of 45 feet along Bishop Allen Drive (the residential interface) and on Columbia, and 80 feet along Mass Ave. with a special permit. Twining/Normandy want the height to be 70 feet on Bishop Allen and Columbia, and 195 feet on Mass. Ave.
- The surface parking lots will be used for parking for the tower, which means they cannot become low-rise housing compatible with the neighborhood.
- Normandy Partners is the major investor behind the proposal, with developments in the Boston, New York and Washigton, D.C. areas, and minor operations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Normandy invests in gentrifying metro areas. It owns or has developed 25 million square feet of commercial property, 2,500 residential units and 1,100 hotel rooms. Its investors have invested $1.5 billion, and it controls $5 billion of real estate. Normandy has no interest in the lives of Cambridge residents. They are simply trying to maximize their returns on their investment.
- The purpose of zoning laws is to protect the interests of residents. If this zoning change is approved, other developers will likely seek similar up zoning throughout Central Square. Normandy is welcome to build on their property within the current zoning, as long as their project is not detrimental to the surrounding communities. Current zoning is quite generous, allowing residential buildings of up to 8 stories on Mass Ave.
- Let the Cambridge City Council know your thoughts on this proposal: call 617-349-4280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- To learn about actions you can take or to stay informed, send an e-mail to C.Res.A. Secretary Shelley Rieman at ShelleyRieman@gmail.com.
So fellow neighbors let's keep trying to find creative solutions that put the common good ahead of the developer’s profit:
- Use city funds to build up to 100% affordable units on city owned property;
- Require MIT to respond to their graduate student’s request to build 2000 affordable units on the MIT campus;
- Sharply increase the inclusionary zoning requirement so that residential buildings conforming to zoning, yield increased numbers of affordable units.
Cambridge Residents Alliance
Working for a Livable, Affordable and Diverse Cambridge www.CambridgeResidentsAlliance.org. PO. Box 390487, Cambridge MA, 02139.