August 15, 2013, 7-9 PM
North Cambridge Senior Center
2050 Massachusetts Avenue
The developers from Urban Spaces returned with their plans for the Bob Slate building replacement. The lot lies in both commercial and residential zones. The project was designed to avoid the need for any sort of variance, but they suggested that they might seek to split the lot into separate sections that reflect the current zoning.
The section that faces Mass Ave in the business zone has three retail units at street level with 20 units of 1- and 2-bedroom rental housing on three upper floors. The required 20 parking spaces (and bicycle spaces) are mostly in an interior ground-level garage entered from Allen Street. The apartments' entrance lobby faces Mass Ave at the north-west end of the building. Several folks stated that the building looked better than its cousin on the old Rounder Records site. There are more windows and Juliet balconies, which gives the building more surface texture.
The section in the residential zone at the back of the lot has a 3-story house and a garage. The house looks much like the apartment building and is connected to it, including a communal deck at the third floor level, which also appears to provide a commanding view into the third floor of the house. Craig Kelley raised concerns about noise, noting complaints that had come his way about similar communal decks and areas that abut residential areas, and several of us wondered about the loss of privacy to the owners of the house.
The developers declared a couple of times that making the monstrosity at the corner of Beech Street and Mass. Ave less visible was a goal of the project. They also reported that they’d contacted the owner of said monstrosity about purchasing the property but the conversations went nowhere.
As for the traffic and parking issues: the entrance to the garage will be on Allen Street, there is no parking for the retailers or their customers, and retail deliveries will be serviced from the loading zone that is already on Allen. Concerns about directing all traffic associated with the building along the very narrow Orchard to Allen elbow prompted some of us to arrange a meeting with Sue Clippinger to propose options for making the access from Mass Ave by either changing the direction in the middle of the street as on Roseland or changing the direction of Allen Street altogether. (That the late Jean Keldyz was not in attendance was noted in fond collective awareness that the mere suggestion of either possibility would likely have killed her.)
The developers are required to have large project review, expected to be in mid-September. The consensus of the meeting was that the project was acceptable, aside from our concerns about traffic on Allen Street.