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 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):


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
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

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!

Originally uploaded by

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]

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: or call the Cambridge Historical Society at 617-547-4252.

Western Avenue Bridge Repairs

2004-10-23 019
Originally uploaded by sv.prudence
From the Chronicle:
State to make repairs to Western Avenue Bridge
Beginning Saturday, Sept. 13 continuing for several days from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. each night, [DCR] will be repairing the concrete railing on the Western Avenue Bridge... During the work, the right Boston-bound lane will be closed. Loud jack hammering noise will end by 11:30 p.m. each night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

625 Putnam Approved by Planning Board

On Tuesday night the Planning Board formally approved the Homeowners Rehab, Inc (HRI) proposal known as the 625 Putnam development. The project was approved as proposed, containing 40 affordable housing units in two buildings (a six-unit building fronting Brookline St and a 34-unit building facing Putnam). The project will have 28 off-street (underground) parking spaces for residents. HRI's team was advised to consider the neighborhood's concerns, but did not make their approval contingent on any specific conditions.

For the unfamiliar, there's a lot of background info in
these prior posts.

Despite the very real concerns of abutters, the project has great potential and will expand C-port's vibrant residential fabric into the light industrial belt of buildings on MIT's west side. Hopefully, the HRI team will continue regular communication with the neighborhood as the project moves through design and construction.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cambridge Carnival Parade this Weekend

Saturday Sunday the 13th marks the return of the 17th Cambridge Carnival International festival and parade, a "colorful and festive celebration that is rooted in African traditions," and annually attracts 150,000 celebrants.

Most of the carnival itself will be centered at Kendall Square, but the enlarged, 1.3 mile parade route runs right through C-port, starting at Blackstone Street and River Street at 1pm, continuing up River Street to Mass Ave. From Central Square, it continues down Mass Avenue to Main Street into Kendall Square.

A bit more from the organizers:

Cambridge Carnival is the most unique event in the City of Cambridge. It is planned entirely by the community for the community. The organizing committee works hard year-round to plan an event that is inclusive, engaging, and reflective of the City’s diversity. The event is organized by a non-profit volunteer community organization made up of a diverse group of individuals who live and work in Cambridge as well as local businesses who desire to promote, preserve and share the history and culture of the Caribbean and Carnival traditions based on the models of Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil. The festival is a vehicle to bring together Cambridge's diverse community for a spectacular annual costume parade and celebration.

The Cambridge Carnival has come a long way since 1992 from a small street fair at University Park, to now one of the most spectacular events in the Greater Boston area. Today, Cambridge Carnival is one of the largest outdoor multicultural festivals in New England. After twelve years of growth, in 2004, Cambridge Carnival, which takes place in August every year, outgrew its Central Square location and found a home in Kendall Square. Cambridge Carnival is one of twenty-four North American Caribbeanstyle carnivals that combine wire-bending, costumes, masks, music, steel pan, street-parades, dancing, and food and craft exhibits, to display the diverse cultures of all the countries and Caribbean islands.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Capuano to Run

Per the Chronicle, citing the Dorchester Reporter:
Report: Capuano to run for Kennedy Senate seat
If the former Somerville mayor indeed runs, it would end a six-term stranglehold on the 8th District seat. C-port (and the rest of Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea and the two-thirds of Boston that make up the District) will have an open seat in 2010 for the first time in 12 years, since Capuano succeeded Joe Kennedy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Neighborhood Association Meeting on Sept 10

From Bill August, on behalf of the CNA:

The Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association will be holding a community meeting Thursday, Sept 10, 7 pm, at the Woodrow Wilson Court community room (entrance down the ramp on Fairmont St, off of Magazine St). We have an exciting agenda and all are welcome.
1) C-port History Day and Park/Block Party on October 3rd. This is gearing up to be a big day for the neighborhood, with the rededication of Fort Washington, tours, a party at Dana Park and other ways of celebrating C-port's fascinating history, including If This House Could Talk. The CNA meeting will be a vital planning event.
2) State Rep. Marty Walz has requested an opportunity to update the neighborhood about new legislation she has filed for better protecting open space along the river.
3) Update on the wide range of current DCR issues affecting the neighborhood, which will certainly include the more controversial efforts.
4) An update on the proposed 625 Putnam development--especially the results of the potentially decisive public hearing on September 8th.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Man Stabbed on Brookline Street

I don't closely monitor the police blotter, so I really don't know how common violent crime is in the neighborhood. But I'll admit that I get pretty complacent about safety in our sleepy C-port. So Monday night's stabbing at the corner of Brookline and Erie surprised me.

Via the Globe:

A 56-year-old man who refused to give up his wallet was stabbed multiple times Monday night by a teenager during a struggle on a dark Cambridge street, Cambridge Police said.
And in today's Chronicle, we hear about a related crime across town:

The 16-year-old Cambridge boy was arrested at about 1:45 a.m. Aug. 31 and charged with attempted robbery and assault with intent to murder after he used a knife to allegedly stab a 56-year-old Cambridge man. The teen allegedly demanded his victim’s wallet and when he refused, the teen allegedly stabbed the man multiple times at the intersection of Brookline and Erie streets, police said.

The victim underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition in the hospital Tuesday night, said Pasquarello.

The same teen is also wanted for an alleged stabbing in the Kendall Square T station Friday night, according to MBTA officials.

Our thoughts are with the victim and his family.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Next 625 Putnam Planning Board Hearing on September 8

The Planning Board staff passed along a notice for the next Planning Board meeting, which will include "deliberation and a possible decision" on the 625 Putnam project proposed by HRI.

The details:
September 8, 7:30 pm
City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway
2nd Floor Conference Room

You can read the background on the proposal from these prior posts.

Congrats to Mayor Simmons

From the Chronicle, a story on the recent (historic) wedding of Mayor Denise Simmons:

Simmons, draped in white lace, clasped hands with a suit-and-tie-clad Hayes, as they became the first same sex couple to be married inside the century-old St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

Simmons, the nation’s first African American, openly lesbian mayor, said she is cognizant of the deeper social implications of her wedding day in the city that granted the first same sex wedding license in state in 2004.

“Times are changing, people are becoming more accepting of their fellow citizens, and we are slowly arriving at more of a ‘live-and-let-live’ kind of world,” Simmons said in a statement released before the wedding. “Our society is definitely making progress.”