Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Tree Collection 12/28 - 01/08

The 12-day window to recycle Christmas trees began yesterday. See details from the City's announcement:

Curbside collection of bare Christmas trees will be Dec 28-Jan 8. Decorations and stands must be removed and trees should not be in a plastic bag. Weather permitting, trees collected during this time don't get buried or burned. Last year, residents recycled over 4,700 trees. The chipped trees were used as mulch in natural areas in Cambridge. For more information, visit the DPW Yard Waste page.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 5 MW Gorilla

It's easy to forget that among the historic clapboard houses, the riverside parks and narrow streets that C-port also is home to the 4th oldest operating nuclear reactor in the U.S. A reactor that is over 50 years old and generates over 5 MW of power. A reactor that is becoming a political liability to the federal government, as detailed in today's Globe.

The problem has less to do with saftey concerns from internal problems or outside threat, and more to do with the fact that the plant's mere existence is seen by many to undermine global non-proliferation efforts. From the article:

The US government has spent millions of dollars in recent years helping other nations convert their civilian reactors from using highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium, a suitable alternative for generating nuclear power that cannot be used to make an atomic bomb. And President Obama is expected to seek further commitments next year from foreign nations to phase out highly enriched uranium from civilian reactors.

But while the Department of Energy set a goal of 2014 to switch the MIT reactor to the lower-grade fuel, that commitment is not likely to be met, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, largely because the MIT facility needs a special kind of new fuel to maintain its uniquely high density core - fuel that will take years to develop and certify before it can be manufactured in sufficient quantities.

Photo by Flickr user Mr_H. Used under Creative Commons license.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cheung Featured in Globe

City Councilman and C-port resident Leland Cheung was featured in the Globe today as part of the wave of press (and blogging) that followed his election and upcoming inauguration to the Council. The article delves into the rising visibility of Asian-Americans in city politics, paralleling Cheung's candidacy with Sam Yoon's career across the Charles.

Cheung - who is working on a business degree at MIT and a policy degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government - jumped into the campaign. Using social networking websites and old-fashioned campaigning, he
successfully rallied students, the Asian community, and anyone who would listen around his campaign themes of job creation and bridging the gap between students and residents.

It worked.

“There’s a substantial Asian-American population in Cambridge, without regard to students,’’ said former mayor Frank Duehay, who served 14 terms on the council. “He figured out how to bring his campaign to students and the Asian-Americans who live in Cambridge. He obviously was effective.’’

Image from Rui Luo of The Tech.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MIT Town/Gown Report Released

MIT has just released the 2009 Town/Gown Report, which quantifies the Institute's impact on C-port and the city, and publicizes future plans for development. It's an interesting read for those curious about MIT's ever-important role in our neigbhorhood (it's also an excuse for me to try out the PDF portal in the blog). The map on page 29 is helpful for those of us who are always curious about what properties the Institute owns (and does not own).

Some of the highlights...

Impact on the city:

  • MIT owns 5.1 million square feet of taxable commercial space and 175 taxable residential units in Cambridge (compared to about 11 million non-taxable square feet of space in academic, dormitory and student activities buildings)
  • MIT taxable properties generate $31.2 million in Real Estate Taxes for the City, with an additional $7.4 million in other contributions, fees, etc. This makes up about 12% of the City's annual budget
  • There are about 1700 students residing off-campus in non-MIT (private) housing, a number that has decreased as about 200 additional students have been accommodated in "Institute-approved" (dorms, fraternities, etc) in the past year

Recent and Future Development:

  • 350 additional bike parking spaces have been added, as well as bike "repair stations" with air and minor tools--one at the student center across from Lobby 7 on Mass Ave
  • MIT and the CSX railroad company are working on creating a safe pedestrian crossing of the railroad tracks at Pacific Street, creating a better connection between C-port and the western half of campus
  • The cluster of parking lots at the western end of campus (near Ft Washington) are being viewed increasingly as an opportunity to develop new buildings to house administrative uses (that don't need to be as close to the heart of the academic campus). The potential future Urban Ring stop would make this an even more attractive option for the Institute to create transit-oriented development focused on office uses
  • Though there are no immediate plans, the Institute is studying the parking lots along Mass Ave, Albany Street and Vassar Street for development, including the necessary active ground floor uses that would need to be incorporated into future buildings
  • As mentioned here before, MIT is permitting a few projects in anticipation of an rebound in the commercial real estate market, and hopes to start (re)development work when primary tenants are identified. These include 130 Brookline Street and 640 Memorial Drive.

See the full report below...

towngown2009


Thursday, December 10, 2009

MIT Dorm Achieves LEED-Gold Sustainability Benchmark

A new MIT dorm on Pacific Street on C-port's east side officially received Gold-level designation under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system. The architect of the "new" Ashdown House was William Rawn Associates, who has been feeling a lot of Cambridge love from another recent project, the Cambridge Main Library addition.

Details on the building's green strategies, from the Chronicle:

Ashdown House, a graduate residence that houses more than 400 students and includes a full dining area, earned its Gold rating for a variety of green features: The building’s landscaping and irrigation systems use water from a non-potable source; a storm-water management system significantly reduces storm-water runoff; maximized daylight is available in 95 percent of regularly occupied spaces; and low-flow fixtures reduce water use by more than 20 percent. What’s more, care was taken to make the construction of Ashdown House as low-impact as possible: More than 10 percent of its materials included recycled content; more than 75 percent of the waste from the construction was recycled; and the building uses low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) -emitting paints, sealants and carpets.
Photo courtesy MIT.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

C-Port Scene: Wintry Mix Edition


The weather of the past week has certainly not been pretty, but it's a precursor to those moments when C-Port is at its most beautiful: the fleeting hours after a fresh snowfall, and before we get all angst-y about plowing and shoveling and parking.

This edition of the C-Port Scene series was captured by Flickr user Night Owl City over in University Park, where snow from a few years ago transformed the way we see the Simplex Wire & Cable Co. wire spool and the landscape elements.

Have interesting photos to share from the neighborhood? Make them part of this series! Upload the images to Flickr and tag them "Cambridgeport."

Friday, December 4, 2009

The C-port Commercial Real Estate Forecast

In last week's Banker & Tradesman, there was an interesting (and welcome) forecast for the Cambridge Commercial Real Estate market, with regard to life sciences firms. The full article is available to subsribers only, but here's the preview:
Cambridge's life sciences market appears poised to rebound long before the rest of the region's commercial real estate market, thanks to tight constraints on space, healthy demand from small users, and a bit of fortuitous timing.

The article focuses mostly on Cambridge's relative strength in the steady market for smaller, non-blockbuster life sciences spaces, which don't draw a lot of attention, but have mostly avoided the serious commercial real estate downturn, and are better poised for recovery. This is especially relevant for C-port, which has a significant chunk of this kind of commercial space, much of it currently vacant. Additionally, at least two significant redevelopment projects await the rebound of the market in MIT's 130 Brookline Street and 640 Memorial Drive.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So What's the Deal with Blessed Sacrament?

The city Planning Board held a public discussion on Tuesday to review design changes for the Blessed Sacrament condo development (aka Dana Park Place). The good news? Many of the objectionable changes to the project were pledged to be undone. That said, the final development will have some compromised features from the original proposal. The process of how the project got to this point is a revealing story about historic rehab projects in Cambridge.

The proponant, developer Paul Ognibene (and his counsel and architect) revisited the recent history of the project that lies right at the center of C-port: After the Archdiocese closed the parish, it was sold to Ognibene in 2005, and he went forward with plans to develop 49 condominium units under the development entity of Urban Spaces LLC. Neighbors objected to the size of the project, organizing themselves as the Neighbors & Abutters of Blessed Sacrament (NABS). The neighbors filed suit and the project was delayed until a settlement was reached in June 2006. Among the terms of the settlement, Ognibene agreed to lowering the number of units in the church and school to 43.

To this point, most of the project has been completed. Of the original four-building campus, the Erie Street convent was demolished and the rectory was restored as a two-family condo. The school portion opened as a 23-unit condo building last year, and despite suffering the worst of the market collapse, its pricing has held up and 17 units have been sold. Work resumed on the church portion of the project this summer, but observers soon began noticing troubling aspects of the construction: poor brickwork, extensive demolition around openings, and tall concrete block walls in the front portico. Inquiries led to the project coming back in front of the Planning Board--a strange step for a project mostly through construction.

It was obvious that the project changed substantially since the Board-approved version, but the changes were documented in the project's Permit documents, which were approved by the city's Inspectional Services Department. Most of the changes were triggered by changing the height of the underground garage's second level by 18" to meet previously unrecognized code requirements--a condition that some on the Board felt was foreseeable and avoidable. The development team countered that conditions in the foundation of the church, designed in 1907, were unknown and had to be resolved as they were uncovered.

This change in floor height rippled through the design, causing the architect, Khalsa Design, to make numerous unfortuante adjustments in the permit documents: existing masonry details were removed or altered, the "planters" between the columns grew taller, window openings now crashed into the building's ornate, classical cornice.

Fortunately, several folks from the city, including Charlie Sullivan of the Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC), have been working with Ognibene to mitigate the impact of the changes, and Ognibene's team came to the meeting with seven modifications to be made to the project:
  1. The planter walls (currently the concrete block backup is installed between the columns in the portico) will be lowered in height to the original proposal, near the top of the front portion of wall today. A more transparent railing will take the place of the removed wall. City planners, as well as a few Board members, also voiced concern over the planters being too far forward, burying the profile of the original columns. CHC will continue to work with the developer to resolve.
  2. The Pearl Street entrance through the original portico, already elevated significantly from the sidewalk, will be raised approximately another eight steps to accommodate the new floor heights. This modification is much worse than the original proposal (and existing building), but unavoidable. CHC will work with the developer to simplify the stair railings and conform to code.
  3. The fifth floor windows have been redesigned to not interfere with the existing building's cornice.
  4. The third floor windows (the top, arched portion of the original nave windows) have been redesigned on both the north and south facades.
  5. Proposed decorative grating will be removed from the Pearl Street facade to reveal more of the original brick detailing.
  6. The buildings new main entrance, off McTernan Street, has been altered from the Planning Board submission to better respond to the language of the existing building's punched openings. CHC will review the quality of the brick infill currently in place and necessary repairs. Ognibene called the shoddy work "a thorn in my side, as a developer."
  7. Windows on the south facade will be shifted up 17", with window glazing to remain the same size, and a planned Juliette balcony will be removed (ostensibly for neighbors' privacy).
Several of these modifications will be helpful in preserving the building's architectural integrity. The fact that the developer was able to get permit drawings approved that undermined the Board-approved design is unsettling and raises some questions about the approvals process. On the other hand, that the city responded to neighbor and staffers' concerns and is pushing the development to take corrective action is significant. The onus is on the city and the neighborhood to see that there is follow-through.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

A topic for every interested C-porter:

  • Tuesday, 12/1: Planning Board Meeting, including a "design review of a limited number of façade changes for the church structure phase" of the Blessed Sacrament condo conversion (aka "Dana Park Place"); 7:30pm, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor meeting room
  • Wednesday, 12/2: C-port Neighborhood Association meeting, with an agenda that includes a year end review/visions for next year, the city arborist discussing neighborhood street trees, Housing Authority initiatives, the Police Review Committee on policing policy; 7:00pm, Woodrow Wilson Court, Fairmont Street entrance (via ramp to basement level community room)
  • Tuesday, 12/8: City Council Housing Committee meeting to review the significant ongoing and planned initiatives by the Cambridge Housing Authority; 5:00pm, Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue
  • Wednesday, 12/9: City Council Hearing on the Stretch Energy Code, which is contemplated as an option for municipalities to increase energy conservation & energy efficiency beyond statewide code minimums; 5:00pm, Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue
  • Wednesday, 12/16: "Envisioning Central Square," a public forum being orgainized by Mayor Simmons and Vice Mayor Seidel; 6:00pm, City Hall; contact Jeff Walker, Mayor Simmons' Chief of Staff, at JWalker@Cambridgema.gov for more info

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CHA's Busy Winter

C-port contains a significant portion of CHA's housing portfolio, including Family Housing at the recently modernized River Howard Homes and Woodrow Wilson Court and Senior apartment buildings like the LB Johnson Apartments and Manning Apartments (adjacent to the Central Square Library). CHA's plans for future development and modernization, as well as property management, have a significant impact in the neighborhood, for CHA property residents, employees, and neighbors.

With that in mind, here are a number of notes about the active Cambridge Housing Authority, including a meeting notice to discuss more:
  • CHA's groundbreaking Work Force program, a "comprehensive life skills and vocational training program for low-income youth" was featured in Sunday's Globe:

    [T]he agency’s unusual role as academic adviser as well as landlord appears to be catching on across the state, with Patrick administration officials encouraging public housing managers to go beyond providing tenants with clean, affordable homes and begin promoting their children’s academic progress... The move is in recognition of a growing body of research indicating that schools alone cannot bolster the achievement of the state’s poorest students.
  • Councillor Craig Kelley passed along a note that the Council's Housing Committee will meet Tuesday, 12/8, "regarding the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA), including multi-million dollar renovation of CHA sites, vacancy on CHA Board, potential changing of status of CHA units from being state-funded to being federally funded and any other issues regarding the CHA that may properly come before the committee."

  • Wilson Court and Manning Apartments, both state projects, are among the 12 proposed properties for conversion to Federal Public Housing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

This week, as temperatures continue their annual plunge -- highs in the mid-40's this Thanksgiving weekend -- and many of us gather around the table with family and friends, we give thanks not just for our own good fortune, but for our C-Port neighbors who extend their reach to the less fortunate. The increasingly active CentralSquare.com blog notifies us of these efforts:

First, for the third time, Central Square's Tavern in the Square will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner "open to all," consisting of all the traditional favorites plus pie and coffee. The dinner focuses on "the elderly, the homeless and, families that may be struggling in these difficult times." Doors open at 11 AM, dinner will be served from 11:30-2. If you would be interested in volunteering for the day, please call 617-868-8800 and ask for a manager.

And from now until December 18th, the YWCA & YMCA of Cambridge are running a "Sharing Food For the Holidays" food drive for the 108 women, 129 men, and 29 families they will house during the holiday season. Food Drive Drop Boxes are located at the YWCA lobby, 7 Temple Street, and the YMCA lobby, 820 Mass Ave. If you would like to donate any non-perishable bulk items please contact Sharon Columbo, YWCA Tanner Residence, 617-491-6055 x228.

C-Port Neighborhood Association Meeting 12/2

From the neighborhood listserv:

CNA will be holding its next community meeting (all are welcome esp. those who bring cookies) on December 2, 2009, 7 p.m. at the Woodrow Wilson Court, Fairmont Street entrance (basement-level community room)

Agenda so far:

  • Year end review of neighborhood association and forward looking plans/visions for next year, so this presents opportunity to help shape CNA future work;
  • [Potential] discussion with City arborist on trees in C-port (so many streets are almost tree-less and some of us want to do something about that);
  • Cambridge Housing Authority plans to expend tens of millions on renovations (many of the CHA properties are in Cport);
  • Much more!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walk or Bike in Cambridge? Join the City's Efforts

Given that C-port is easy walking or biking distance from huge employment hubs in Harvard, MIT, Longwood Medical Area and downtown, it makes sense that our neighborhood would rank among the leaders in biking and walking commutes in Cambridge (and the city itself ranks #1 nationally in walking commutes). And, given conversations with cyclists friends of mine, they likely have a lot to say about the City's approach to bikes and pedestrians.

Well, here's their chance. And yours.

From the Chronicle:

The city is looking for people to join its pedestrian and bicycle committees. Pedestrians and cyclists of all ages are encouraged to apply. The two committees work on a variety of issues. They review major development and roadway plans from a pedestrian or cyclist perspective. They work with city staff on general policies and specific projects...

Applicants should be enthusiastic walkers or cyclists who live in Cambridge, can attend monthly meetings, and are willing to work on projects.

Image by Flickr user Dan 4th. Used under Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Love for MIT's Campus

Noted author and urbanist James Howard Kunstler has some harsh words in his podcast this week about MIT, saying the campus "has got to be the ugliest academic neighborhood in America."

He goes on: "Is it because science-oriented people or engineer types have no interest whatsoever in in their surroundings?" he wonders. "You couldn't have designed an uglier campus if you'd invited the devil to run the design team. Everything they've done lately... even these new Frank Gehry buildings and Steven Holl buildings, you know, the "starchitect" buildings, have done nothing to make it any better."

While I think he gives no credit at all to the beautiful Beaux Arts Bosworth campus, the conversation has an interesting take on the race betweem elite institutions to create "wacky buildings."

A more substantive discussion follows about the design issues with the Rose Kennedy Greenway and why Boston is one of the "healthiest cities in America."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

C-Port Scene: The Spectacular Shell Sign

Photo by Flickr user EandJsFilmCrew. Used with Creative Commons License.

This installment of the C-Port Scene doubles as a public announcement.

Everyone knows about the "Spectacular" Shell sign where Magazine meets Memorial down at the tip of C-port. But did you know it was over 75 years old? Did you know it has been on the National Register of Historic Places for over 15?

Next week, City Council will hold a public hearing to consider a proposal by the Cambridge Historic Commission to designate the sign as a Cambridge Landmark. Read the history of the sign and the bygone era of "spectacular" neon signage in the Commission's Landmark Report. The hearing details:
Wednesday, 11/18, 4:30 p.m.
Sullivan Chamber, City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Monday, November 9, 2009

Planning Board Delays Blessed Sacrament to 12/1

Per a note on the Planning Board's November 10th Agenda, the discussion of the Dana Park Place Condos (aka Blessed Sacrament Church) will be delayed until 12/1. Details about the issues with the project have been thin thus far. It is strange to have a "design review with possible revisions" discussion--as the agenda anticipates--while an approved project is under construction.

For some history of the project, which has suffered from construction delays and the economic downturn, go here and here.

Rendering of the proposed renovation to the Blessed Sacrament facade from the development's website.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Greener, More Just C-port

There's no doubt the kind of call for change that Al Gore promotes resonates globally (and this past weekend, locally) is needed to pull the planet from our current path toward severe climate change. Gore, however, is the first to agree that the kind of collective action he's seeking originates at the household and neighborhood level, and extends beyond energy efficiency and less wasteful lives. It begins with individual responsibility and extends to a sustainable, socially just basis for our local economy, the kind of approach shared by MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and by organizations like the GreenPort Forum.

GreenPort, formed in 2006, is a group of local neighbors coming together to learn and collaborate and act on this shared vision. The "fringe benefit," they claim, is that "neighbors working together to solve global warming builds a strong neighborhood."

Last week, GreenPort founder Steve Morr-Wineman announced the next Forum, on Common Security Clubs, presented by Andrée Zaleska (co-founder of the JP Green House):

Coming together to prepare for economic change in uncertain times: Find out why these locally-based initiatives focused on shared learning, mutual aid and social action are emerging in dozens of communities across the country.

Tuesday, November 17 at 7 pm
Central Square Library, 45 Pearl St.

For more information, contact Steve Morr-Wineman at swineman@gis.net.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Week, Another Major Sustainability Address

One week the president, the next a former VP.

As a neighborhood, we continue to struggle to find greener ways to coexist with each other and our surroundings. But wee little C-port, nestled tightly between MIT and Harvard, neatly finds itself in one of the world capitols of the sustainability movement. Following the president's MIT speech on energy policy last week, Al Gore comes to the other end of Mass Ave to tout Our Choice, his follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth.

This Saturday's event at the First Parish Meetinghouse near Harvard Square is sold out, but as with President Obama, there will surely be a crowd gathered to try and catch a glimpse of the Nobel Prize winning superstar of the green movement.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Forget to Vote!

I was pleasantly surprised to see my polling place at Morse School bustling at 8am this morning. If that kind of activity is repeated across Cambridge, there might be a nice turnout today.

Don't forget to vote! See this post for a last-minute cribsheet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A New Twist on Town/Gown Politics

The relationship between city and the world renowned institutions that call Cambridge home is constantly in tension. This is especially true in C-port, which is physically home to parts of both MIT and Harvard. No doubt, the schools have immense positive impact in terms of employment, cultural enrichment and the local economy. But there are other areas of friction, stemming from campus expansions, commercial development and property management, student housing issues, and other, more sensational controversies. In neighboring communities such as Allston, Harvard and BC's expansions are full of controversy. A common response for many residents is to seek Council members who can assert the community's desires against the expanding institutions.

Here in Cambridge, the City Council candidacy of Leland Cheung addresses the Town/Gown issue head on. Cheung is a graduate student at MIT, by his own claim the first active student to run for City Council. His candidacy is more than a grad school fling; he recently was one of two challengers to garner a Chronicle endorsement (along with architect Tom Stohlman). Given his status as both a student and a longtime resident, Cheung's claims about working with universities seem to ring truer than the average candidate, such as his promise that, "as the first current student (who was first and foremost a home-owning resident) I will use my unique status to open university resources to the community." [full disclosure: I'm an MIT alum, but I don't know Cheung, nor have I decided who to vote for just yet.]

Regardless of your choice, please get out and vote on Tuesday. For those still looking for a candidate to support or other election info, be sure to check out the Municipal Election post from last week that links to a bunch of resources, (including the comprehensive Cambridge Civic Journal).

Image of Cambridge City Hall from the city website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celebrate Halloween at Dana Park!

From neighbor Carolyn Shipley:

Cambridge Community Schools presents:

Halloween in Dana Park, Saturday, 10/31, 3 to 5 p.m. Entertainment by Davey the Clown. Juggling, music, and more! There'll be face painting, crafts, prizes and treats. Costumes encouraged. For more information, please call 617-349-6227. Bring your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

C-Port All Over Monday's City Council Agenda

Some good questions to start the week:
  • What's happening at Blessed Sacrament Church (aka the Dana Park Place condo development, pictured at right), and why in the world are they blocking in the beautiful classical portico with CMU?
  • As popular as the Pacific Street dog park is, how about a place to sit for dog owners? Or, since it will soon be dark by 4:30pm, how about some lighting?
  • What should happen with the old police station building on Western Ave at Central Square?
Via seperate emails from City Council member Craig Kelley, we learned that this Monday's City Council Agenda will take up these exact topics (among others). I'm interested specifically in the Blessed Sacrament questions, as we've noticed lots of folks puzzled by the damaging alterations to the exterior in the past few weeks. I posted earlier this summer about work finally resuming on the project. For Monday, Councilor Decker has asked the City Manager to "provide the City Council with an update on the Blessed Sacrament Church construction project, specifically, why there has been a delay in construction and whether or not the developer is building beyond the scope of the permitted plans."

Per Councilor Kelley's emails, anyone can speak for up to three minutes on any topic on the Council's agenda at Monday's Council's meeting. To speak at a Council meeting, call 349-4280 between 9 AM and 3 PM to sign up, or show up at 5:30 to speak. You may email the entire Council at Council@Cambridgema.gov and the City Manager at RHealy@Cambridgema.gov.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Municipal Elections on Nov. 3rd

Image courtesy Cambridge Chronicle.

UPDATE: Added a link below to the Cambridge Civic Journal, an outstanding resource for residents and voters.
Voting for candidates for City Council and School Committee doesn't have the visceral appeal of national campaigns (Yes we can! Drill baby drill! Ronny Reagan 4-EVA!). The results, however, can have immediate and useful (or annoying) consequences for our day-to-day lives.

So, with less than two weeks until the 11/3 election day, we'll point out the various resources for C-port residents looking for candidates to support. Please vote!

The Chronicle has a Q&A with all the Council candidates (click on each candidates photo). A great resource for viewing multiple candidate profiles (and a host of other city council background) can be found at the Cambridge Civic Journal's 2009 Candidate pages.

The Cambridge Election Commission has the polling places, election calendar (important for absentee voting), specimen ballots, and a list of all the municipal candidates.

Here's the makeup of the current City Council and School Committee with a little background on each.

And I'll admit that I'm pretty curious to see the results of that little contest happening across the river.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The President Comes to C-Port

Nestled between Harvard and MIT, C-port is no stranger to VIP visitors, but color me excited about this Friday's address by President Obama from MIT. The news came yesterday from MIT VP Kirk Kolenbrander:
[O]n Friday, October 23, President Barack Obama will be visiting MIT, where he will deliver an address in Kresge Auditorium on clean energy after meeting some of the MIT faculty and students whose work centers on energy. The President will be joined by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Kolenbrander elaborated on some logistics (which shouldn't affect the non-campus area significantly):
The visit will begin in the late morning on Friday and end in the early afternoon. Of course, any Presidential visit to MIT involves security measures that may cause significant interruptions to the ordinary life of the campus. On Friday morning, please expect vehicle and pedestrian traffic to be disrupted on various parts of our campus... any further information about the day of the visit, will be made available [Wednesday] at http://web.mit.edu/events/presidentialvisit.
Image courtesy MIT, attributed to Flickr with Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's Needed in Central Square Retail?


An announcement from City Council member Henrietta Davis. What do you think Central Square needs?

Brunch Rundown


Photo_041709_003
Originally uploaded by yehwan

For those who greet the arrival of cooler weather with a craving for hot comfort food and less hectic weekends, brunch is one of life's great pleasures. Lucky for us, C-port abounds with good and varied options. Via Winnie Yang and the Nine Dots Boston arts blog comes this rundown of Central Square brunch options (h/t CentralSquare.com).

There are no real surprises on a list that contains Toscanini's, Cragie on Main, Cafe Luna and Brookline Lunch, but its a nice reminder that there are plenty of good local places out there ready to help us put on that protective layer for winter! (Or am I the only one that thinks its a compliment for a bunch to be "definitely on the slower, greasier side of food life"?)

Monday, October 19, 2009

ConCom Meeting on DCR Projects TONIGHT


magazine beach 3rd april 08
Originally uploaded by essygie

UPDATE: Links added for background.

Neighbor and Charles River watershed advocate Marilyn Wellons passes on information about tonight's (Monday) important Cambridge Conservation Commission hearing on the joint Cambridge-DCR projects and controversy at Magazine Beach/Memorial Drive. The hearing is at 8pm in the fourth floor conference room of 344 Broadway.

From Ms. Wellons:

Hundreds of us signed the 2008 petition to support the conservation of Magazine Beach and Captains Island as natural and historic green space—as untreated, multipurpose fields open to all. We supported Cambridge purchase of land for new sports fields away from the banks of the river, in underserved Cambridge neighborhoods; funding and proper maintenance for existing children and adult pools; restored access to the river for human activity and waterfowl of all kinds; and a natural history walk and passive information center on the history and ecology of the Charles River estuary. Now the DCR is asking the ConCom for an extension of the ConCom's Order of Conditions to allow the work to continue...

Please attend the hearing or, if that’s not possible, contact ConCom Director Jennifer Wright, at jwright@cambridgema.gov.

R & R

Sorry for the lack of posts the last two weeks... the blog (and blogger) were out of the country on a much needed vacation! New posts coming soon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

C-Port Historical Tour Rescheduled for Sun. 10/11

From Cathie Zusy of the Cambridge Historical Society:

Because of the rain last weekend, Charlie Sullivan's C-port history walk has been postponed to this Sunday, October 11. The tour will start at Fort Washington Park at 1 p.m., giving folks a chance to see the reopened and rededicated park. The tour will end at Dana Park at 2:30 p.m.

The Fort Washington Tour (stay-dry version)


cannon on the mounds
Originally uploaded by alist

For those unable to attend the rededication of Fort Washington in the rain this weekend, the CNA passed along the text of the tour/speech made by Brian Campbell, reproduced below. I promise you'll learn something new about our "greasy village"...

The American Revolution (1775 to 1783)
In a letter to Joseph Reed dated November 27, 1775, George Washington, wrote, “I have caused two half Moon Batterries to be thrown up for occasional use, between Litchmore’s Point and the mouth of Cambridge River” (Charles River). Of the many siege
fortifications built, only the Three Gun Battery Earthworks at Fort Washington Park survive in an original condition.

After, the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 16th 1775, Volunteer soldiers, worked for nine months building dozens of siege fortifications, in a Ring, around Boston. Henry Knox’s volunteer soldiers and teamsters, hauled Heavy Siege Cannons, from Fort Ticonderoga, New York, 300 miles, to Cambridge Common. Four Thousand (4000) American Soldiers placed them on Dorchester Heights on the night of March 4th 1776, forcing the British evacuation of Boston on March 17, 1776. The British never did return and on March 17th, we celebrate Evacuation Day / St. Patrick’s Day, and Washington’s First Victory.

Fort Washington Park built 1857 (1783 to 1865)
At the end of the Revolution, the Dana family, who owned most of Cambridgeport, protected the Three Gun Battery Earthworks. In 1857, these were deeded to Cambridge. The best statement about the transfer to the city of the Fort Washington property seems to be that contained in the Historic Guide to Cambridge, compiled by
members of Hannah Winthrop Chapter, DAR, in 1907, on page 179. It is as follows: The three gun battery at the foot of Allston Street retains the semblance of a fort, and is called Fort Washington. The land where this battery was thrown up had been held in common from the close of the Revolution till 1857, when it was deeded to the city by the following persons: Edmund T. and Elizabeth Hastings, Mary E. Dana, Joseph A. and Penelope Willard, John and Hannah B. Bartlett. A fund of $800 was also turned over to the city, by these people who cared for this plot of historic land. The conditions named in the deed were as follows:

[T]hat the above premises when suitably enclosed and adorned by said city, shall forever remain open for light, air, and adornment, for the convenience and accommodation of the owners of estates in said Pine Grove, and of the Public generally.

The city accepted this gift and with the assistance of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts proceeded to restore this battery to its original condition, to build a substantial fence around it and to erect a flagstaff. The secretary of war gave three Eighteen Pound American guns, and the Secretary of the Navy gave the gun carriages. The state legislature voted to appropriate the sum of $2000,

provided the city of Cambridge shall appropriate a sum sufficient to complete the said fence at a cost of not less than four thousand dollars and said Fort Washington shall always be accessible to the public, and that said city shall always keep the fence proposed to built, in good repair.

The Cambridge City Directory 1861 reported the Earthworks to be five years old in appearance and in excellent condition and the total cost was $9,504.05.

The Industrialization of Cambridgeport
& Isolation of Fort Washington (1865 to 1930)
The Late 1800’s saw Cambridgeport rapidly industrialize, [including firms such as] JOHN REARDON & SONS, a soap and candle business (1878) was located on the SE side of Fort Washington. These and other like Businesses gave the Cambridgeport Neighborhood the nickname of “Greasy Village”. The Charles River Tidal “Oyster Flats” on the south side of Fort Washington were filled, creating new land, isolating Fort Washington a ¼ mile from the Charles River. Thus, Fort Washington became a place avoided and was vandalized. The Hannah Winthrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution restored Fort Washington in 1905, and quoted, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts 1630-1877, Lucius R. Paige “Let no unpatriotic hand destroy this revolutionary relic, now known as Fort Washington.” in their book Historic Guide to Cambridge.

Bernard Rudolph Square and the Restoration of Fort Washington (1930 – 2009)
Bernard Rudolph (Bernie), arrived in Cambridgeport in 1921 at age 10, escaping Russian persecution with his mother, Rose and sisters, joining his Father, Hymie who emigrated here earlier. Of Cambridgeport, Bernie said, “from the aroma of fat-rendering then in the area. On a hot day, when the smell mixed with that coming from chocolate factory, the mixture boggled the senses.” Bernard grew up in Cambridgeport, served in WWII and returned to Cambridgeport with his Wife Marion and raised a Son, Stuart and daughters, Sandra and Lois. He became president of Cambridge Post 35 Jewish War Veterans.

By the Early 1960’s Fort Washington had become fully enclosed by defunct St. Johnsbury Trucking Company. Bernie wittnessed Fort Washington’s decline over many years saying "During the Depression, people ripped sections off the fence to sell to junkyards. Through the years, it suffered from a bad case of neglect. “The flagpole, the cannon, the fence, and the mounds [of earthworks] showed that no one cared," he said, "If commercial and political allies had prevailed then, the fort would be a parking lot today." His goal, Mr. Rudolph said, was "just and simple: That this historic fort should not become another dump for snow in the winter and a parking lot for trailers in the summer.”

Before the 1960s, before Mr. Rudolph launched his campaign to save the park around 1967, the fact that it was generally ignored, bothered him. In 1968, with the help of his wife, Marion K. Rudolph, they organized raffles and other events and raised $1075 dollars for the installation of a new flagpole at the park. Bernie Rudolph and his son Stuart, would raise the flag every morning and lower it every evening, for five years, flying flags procured by Tip O'Neill, the late speaker of the House who represented this neighborhood, until Bernie got the city and the utility company to put lighting in so the flag could be displayed around the clock. Ceremonies held at Fort Washington, on Flag Day, June 14th, were attended by the Late Senator, Ted Kennedy, Attorney General, Elliot Richardson and veteran organazations.

Fort Washington was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973. By 1975, with interest aroused by the bicentennial, Mr. Rudolph's diligence finally paid off.
Mr. Rudolph gained allies like the DAR, and MIT Professor, Douglas Adams. The Cast Iron Fence was eventually restored to it’s approximate 1859 appearance at a cost of over $400,000, much of it Bicentenial and National Park Funds. Archeology studies confirmed the Revolutionary Earthworks are “original and fragile”. In the Cambridge City Directory, 1861, the author wishes a Statue of Colonel Richard C. Gridley, who probably designed the Three Gun Battery, adorn the site. The Madiline Lord Relief Sculptures, of Common Soldiers, modeled on Re-enactors, represent the Spirit of the over 16,000 American Soldiers that took part in the “Siege of Boston”, better, than the likeness of an individual. These are a welcome reminder of who this Park honors.

On October, 11th, 1998, in recorganization of his efforts, the Cambridge City Council named the Fort Washington Area Bernard Rudolph Square. At the ceremony, Mr. Rudolph spoke affectionally about his Wife, Marion "my chief aide, my greatest critic and my biggest supporter." Those at the ceremony said it was typically Bernie to mention all the people who helped him his effort to save Fort Washington Park, including his "pro bono attorney Eddy Applestein," Cambridge Post 35 Jewish War
Veterans, and the late Pasquale Reale, director of veterans' services for Cambridge, and his four grandchildren and daughter-in-law. Mr Rudoloph’s 70 year Journey, from an Immigrant Lad to an American Patriot, summs up the American Experience in that he is a Brother of the Patriotic Band of Brothers that Washington talked about. That through the generations have defended the freedom of the United States of America, that are honored here at Fort Washington. As Mr. Rudolph said "Fort Washington is a symbol and a vision, a reminder of what we are, where we came from”, and what we can do," and thanks to Mr. Rudolph, Fort Washington, a Symbol of American freedom, is not just another parking lot.

First Cambridgeport History Day a Soggy Success!

Thanks to all who braved the weekend's wet weather and made the first Cambridgeport History Weekend happen. Special thanks go to Cathie Zusy and the Cambridge History Society, as well as the weekend's sponsors: the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, the Cambridge Arts Council, Gallery 263, and other community groups.
Let's hope this event marks a season of renewed interest and appreciation for our 'hood's long history!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Residents Displaced by William Street Fire

From this morning's Chronicle:
Ten Cambridge residents have been displaced from their home on William Street after a fire erupted in the ceiling of the building. According to Deputy Fire Chief John Gelinas, firefighters responded to 29 William St. with reports of an electrical fixture that caught fire around 1 a.m. on Monday. Estimate damage is $25,000. A total of ten people have been temporarily displaced from the 2-1/2-story building since the electricity inside the house was turned off.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

See the C-port You Never Knew


Help Shape a New C-port Housing Development

Two updates on the 625 Putnam development, approved earlier this month by the Cambridge Planning Board:

First, a notice and invitation from HRI's Jane (Jones) Carbone to neighborhood residents/abutters in a mailing today:

HRI is now beginning the next planning phase for Putnam Ave Housing -- Design Development. This stage will formalize the buildings' details and Site Plan which will show what the buildings will look like and include details of the landscape plan. This process will take 2-3 months. We would like to have you join us in this review process. If you are interested in attending meetings to provide input and discuss design ideas with our architect please contact me at jcarbone@homeownersrehab.org or call at 617-868-4858 ex. 212 so that I can schedule the meeting dates and locations.
The second update provides some details from the Planning Board's approval, supplied by CDD's Liza Paden (selected portions only. For the full text, contact Ms. Paden):

FINDINGS

1. Section 10.47.4: Criteria for Approval of Multifamily Dwellings

a. Key features of the natural environment should be preserved to the maximum extent feasible. Tree removal should be minimized and other natural features of the site, such as slopes, should be maintained.

The development parcel consists of a single story vacant industrial building and open parking lot. There are no trees on the site.

b. New buildings should be related sensitively to the existing built environment. The location, orientation and massing of structures in the development should avoid overwhelming the existing buildings in the vicinity of the development. Visual and functional disruptions should be avoided.

The proposed buildings have been located to complement the existing residential uses along Sidney Street and Putnam Avenue. The three story building along Sidney Street is in keeping with the existing residential abutters, with individual front and rear doors. All parking is beneath the Putnam Avenue building to maximize the amount of green open space. The four story building provides a transition to the abutting building site with a 65 foot height limit in the Special District 8A district. The building is designed to provide a principal access of both a ramp and steps to the porch. The Putnam Avenue façade also contains the garage entrance. The Sidney Street building has front entrances on Sidney Street.

c. The location, arrangement, and landscaping of open space should provide some visual benefits to abutters and passersby as well as functional benefits to occupants of the development.

The developer will create green landscaped areas where none currently exist. There will be plantings along the public sidewalks on both Putnam Avenue and Sidney Street. The area abutting the residential buildings is being planted to provide a landscaped buffer between the project sidewalks and the abutting residential properties. There will also be an interior landscaped area within the development.

d. Parking areas, internal roadways and access/egress points should be safe and convenient.

All parking will be located below the multifamily building and accessed from
Putnam Avenue. This access will be properly marked for pedestrian
awareness.
e. Parking area landscaping should minimize the intrusion of onsite parking so that it does not substantially detract from the use and enjoyment of either the proposed development or neighboring properties.

All parking is below the building.
2. Section 6.35.1(6) Reduction of Required Parking within a development providing affordable housing units

The Applicant presented research from other properties that they have developed and currently manage, as well as those of another nonprofit housing developer, which indicate a reduced demand for parking by the households they serve. The existing parking use of those similar projects is below .6 spaces per unit; the proposed development will provide .7 spaces per unit. The MBTA Red Line (in Central Square) and Green Line (across the river in Boston) are within walking distance of the development and the area is served by an existing MBTA bus route as well as the EZ Ride shuttle. It is expected that the general pattern of auto ownership observed in those other developments will occur here as well. With the development of this project the City will be able to designate a number of existing on-street parking spaces, now unrestricted, as resident only parking that should benefit this development and existing neighborhood residential units.

With a reduced parking ratio, there will be significant savings in construction costs for providing the underground parking, as well as time devoted to construction, since the development is designed to excavate only the footprint of the Putnam Avenue building, and to locate the parking below only that building. Minimizing the expense of underground parking makes it possible to provide such a valuable design feature and allow substantial green landscaping at the ground level where surface parking would otherwise have to be located.


There is an additional benefit of constructing a smaller garage with fewer parking spaces: A superior landscaping plan with more mature trees and shrubs can be planted in soil rather than in fill over a garage.

4. Section 5.24.4(3) Side yard Reduction to 10 feet

The design meets all zoning setback requirements with the exception of one portion of the multifamily building (at Putnam Avenue) along the northeasterly edge of the site, next to the existing vacant industrial building. The Board finds that the yard reduction at this location is reasonable, as it will be adequately landscaped and its impact is mitigated by setting back the fourth floor of the building. The yard reduction allows a shift in the location of the building on this portion of the site to provide a larger setback on the westerly side of the building next to the neighboring residential
structure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Veneto Comes to Mass Ave

There's an interesting pattern as you move along the north edge of C-port, from the Harvard Bridge to Central Square. There's constant activity in the first few blocks near Lobby 7 and the heart of MIT. After you cross the railroad tracks, there's a major dropoff in vitality, a gap of surface parking lots, and corporate bioresearch buildings before it ramps back up to the MIT Museum, Cambridge Bicycle Co., Miracle of Science, Middlesex and the beginning of the retail strip that runs nearly uninterrupted to Harvard Square. (Some people, none of whom are me, have started trying to identify the area as "LoMa", as in Lower Massachusetts Ave).

The innovation and variety along the Mass Ave corridor is an amazing asset to C-Port--and the thousands of students and visitors that move along it every day, and every address it moves southeastward toward the river bridges that gap. The next small step toward that comes in the form of Central Bottle wine + provisions, a don't-call-it-an-enoteca to be opened next month in the old New England Confectionary Co building (NECCO!) at 196 Mass Ave. Central Bottle will serves small bites and an offering of wines that will expand what's available in the neighborhood. The owners, four Cantabridgians, embrace their new establishment's revitalizing location and hope it provides a taste of the bella vita they found together in Venice. The foodies out there will recognize a few of the owners from Kendall Square's The Blue Room.

Central Bottle hopes to open October 15th.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mark Sandman Memorial Concert in Pacific Park

Sunday, September 27th at Pacific Street Park, several local and national acts will gather at Pacific Street Park to play a concert in memory of legendary Morphine frontman Mark Sandman. The show will benefit the Mark Sandman Music Project, a not-for-profit community-based organization dedicated to bringing children and music together to foster recreational, educational, and artistic goals. Sandman, a Cambridge native, suffered a fatal heart attack after a performance in Italy in 1999. His passing was noted at the time in a touching eulogy featured in the Boston Phoenix.
Concert details per the Central Square Blog:

The second Mark Sandman Memorial Concert will take place at Pacific Park... on Sunday, September 27, from 1 to 7 pm. The first was on July 25 of 1999, just weeks after the Morphine frontman’s untimely passing onstage at the Nel Nome del Rock festival in Palestrina, Italy. July 3, 2009 marked the tenth anniversary of Sandman’s death, and Sept. 24, 2009 would have been his 57th birthday.

As well as celebrating the life and work of this favorite son of the Cambridge and Boston music scene, the Memorial Concert will focus attention on the Mark Sandman Music Project, based in the newly renovated Arts in the Armory building in Somerville.

See the CS blog post for links to all the artists, or friend the Mark Sandman Memorial Concert on Facebook for details. For more on the nonprofit Music Project, see their myspace page. Something I didn't know: the intersection of Brookline and Mass Ave, location of the famous Middle East, is named Mark Sandman Square.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cambridgeport History Day is Coming!


Cambridgeport
Originally uploaded by
thewhiterabbit11

Details on the upcoming events on October 3rd from the organizer, the Cambridgeport History Group. This is shaping up to be a really fantastic weekend for the C-port community:

“If This House Could Talk..." invites residents and visitors to explore the intimate history of this rich neighborhood. On October 3 and 4, Cambridgeport neighbors and businesses will display original signs sharing choice tidbits about events—contemporary or historic, personal or public—that happened in their buildings. Cathie Zusy, the project’s organizer, hopes that “neighbors will stroll around, discovering great stories that took place just around the corner.” [ed: I saw my first "If This House Could Talk" sign this morning at Dana Park... anyone seen others up yet? Residents eager to put up a sign can contact Cathie at 617-868-0489 or at cathzusy@aol.com]

Saturday, Oct. 3rd activities:

(pick up a map of historic sites and a list of sign locations anytime 10am-5pm at Dana Park)

Noon: Rededication of Fort Washington Park, the only survivor of a chain of small forts ordered built by George Washington in 1775 to defend against the British occupiers of Boston. Gardner’s Regiment, a local group of Revolutionary War re-enactors, will be encamped at the fort from 11am to 2pm and will participate in the rededication

1:00-2:30pm: Charles Sullivan, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, will lead a walking tour of Cambridgeport, starting at Fort Washington and ending at Dana Park

2:30-5:00pm: local community groups will provide entertainment and activities for children and adults, including:

4:00-7:00pm: the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association will hold its annual potluck dinner at Dana Park. Neighbors are invited to bring a dish and enjoy music by local musician Ken Field’s Revolutionary Snake Ensemblette.

If you have questions, e-mail: cport@cambridgehistory.org or call the Cambridge Historical Society at 617-547-4252.