Thursday, September 24, 2009

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 fa├žade 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.

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