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Special Meeting Minutes: Urban Spaces

North Cambridge Senior Center
November 26, 2012

Special Meeting with Urban Spaces, LLC

Development company Urban Spaces bought the Bob Slate Building about six weeks ago, intending to develop a larger building on the site. They are working in partnership with Stone River Properties, a Central Square company that apparently specializes in retail as well as multi-family residential properties. Together they asked to meet with residents to introduce themselves and hear residents' concerns.

Present were:

  • Jeff Hirsch and Alison Hammer, Urban Spaces
  • George Katis, Stone River Properties

They did not present a specific development proposal, but stated that they are looking at a range of possibilities that would include ground-floor retail and anywhere from 15 to 28 units. Nor did they offer a timetable as to when they expected to begin work. AT&T has a 6-month lease and is likely to renew it; Miso Market has one for three years, and they are looking to rent the Bob Slate space. They have not yet selected an architect but expect to do so within a month.

It seems reasonable to infer that development activity (demolition and construction) would begin within three years, but no sooner than one year.

Hirsch and Katis did offer these details:

  • Stone river tends to hold properties rather than selling them off.
  • The residential development would probably be rentals, not condos.
  • The number of units will be limited by the parking they are required to provide.
  • They intend to include ground floor retail facing Massachusetts Avenue.
  • The retail spaces in the current building are too large.
    Katis favors having 3 or 4 retail spaces of 1200 to 1500 sq. ft.

Residents of Allen and Orchard streets were not pleased about increased traffic on Allen, and about the impact on on-street parking. The city is likely to require the parking entrance to be on Allen Street, leading incoming traffic to use Orchard and Allen Streets. Residents noted that at least 8 children live in the immediate area, and Allen street is where they play. Allen Street is probably too narrow for two-way access from the Massachusetts Avenue end. The post office is unlikely to leave for at least another 10 years, and possibly longer, leaving its trucks to impede the flow of traffic in the meantime.

There was a long and not very fruitful discussion of on-street parking and the number of parking spaces required by zoning, either now or as it might be adjusted in the future.

When asked about the relationship between Oaktree Development and Urban Spaces, Hirsch stated that they were separate companies that were partners on two projects—the Rounder Records site and St. James Church. They had considered a merger at one point but are no longer doing so.

Susan Hunziker
John Howard