Cambridge Faces Over-Development

by Richard Krushnic*

The chart to right shows 18,676,919 square feet of commercial and residential development that is permitted, allowed under current zoning, or proposed by the Community Development Department (CDD) or its appointed advisory committees. This 18.7 million sq. ft. is a conservative figure that focuses only on certain areas in Cambridge. For example, it does not include development from proposed up-zoning along Mass. Ave. from Porter Square to the Arlington line or the proposed redevelopment of the Courthouse in East Cambridge.

In the various City reports that are the sources for these numbers, the CDD or one of its respective advisory committees, in each case: 1) proposes development that it wants to take place 2) thinks market conditions exist to enable the development to actually take place, and 3) says that there is a reasonable likelihood that all of the recommended
development will take place by 2030-2035. These visions are put forward as desirable probability, not as wishful thinking.

As a community development professional with 25 years of experience in the Boston area and a current student of market forces in Cambridge, I don’t believe these development plans and figures are fantasies either. Given the power and consistency of the development forces in Cambridge, their unabated march through the current recession, and the lack of any analysis that foresees their diminution in the coming decade, it is reasonable to think that (at least) all of the proposed 18.7 million square feet of development will take place over the next two decades.

The Cambridge Residents Alliance contends that, if this development takes place as planned, it will result in the end of Cambridge as a diverse city and its conversion into a relatively homogeneous middle- and upper-middle-class city with significant areas of extreme density, very tall buildings, severe traffic and transit problems, and sky-high housing prices.

*Richard Krushnic is a community development professional in Boston’s
Neighborhood Development Department and an Inman Square resident. (Professional
affiliation listed for identification purposes only.)

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