May 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 7:00pm

Porter Square Neighbors Association Meeting Minutes

May 21, 2009


  • Nimah Market
  • Cambridge Community TV
  • Ears to the Ground
  • Oaktree / St. James Church development plans

Nimah Market

There was to have been a presentation by the owner of the newly-opened Nimah Market on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Pemberton Avenue, but the presenter did not show up.

Cambridge Community TV

Presenter: Nilagia McCoy, Membership and Promotions Website: CCTV provides services to the community on cable channels 9, 10, 22 Programs are on local politics, art, culture and international issues. We encourage you to become involved. You can take classes and learn skills in lighting, audio, filming, take computer classes. You can reach a larger audience on issues important to you, with the potential of reaching 30,000 households. Learn to produce documentary films and get involved in civic journalism group. There will be a free orientation June 3, citizen journalism—information July 9th. Neighbor media applications produce a couple of stories, do not need experience. CCTV is supported by funds from Comcast and the City of Cambridge. There is a small membership fee. If a senior $25/yr. For $55/hr you can use equipment, studios.

Ears to the Ground

  • Kaya construction is planned to begin June or July.
  • The Ordinance Committee will meet next Wednesday to consider the Lesley/AIB Zoning Proposal. Lesley proposes to build a new building for the Art Institute of Boston with more floor space than is allowed by the current zoning.

Oaktree / St. James Church development plans

Presentation by Gwen Noyes, Oaktree Recent Oaktree projects include the multi-family housing at the corner of Walden and Richdale, and a mixed use project in Lexington center with retail on the 1st floor. Oaktree have been meeting with St. James’s Episcopal Church members to plan a possible new L-shaped building on the site of the car wash and extending behind the church building. The church would be a member of the condo association and occupy the 1st floor. They have been having dialogue with church members, Mass. Historical Commission, and the people at the Cambridge Community Development office. Plans being shown are not final, but they have been reviewed and approved by the bishop and members of the Episcopal diocese. The ground floor would be occupied by the parish with church offices more visible and accessible on Massachusetts Avenue, along with a retail space. They plan to use brick on front to echo fire house and to pick up the colors of church stone, The garden would be utilized more extensively. Drawings of the possible building were shown—4 stories high, but only 3 stories high at the back with a roof garden facing the backyards of neighbors living on Orchard St.

Questions and discussion

Q: You are shifting traffic onto Beech St. with the access to underground parking being reached from Beech. Why not use Massachusetts Avenue for the entrance to parking garage?

A: There are 2 lanes of traffic on Massachusetts Avenue, making left turns more dangerous and difficult. There will be a traffic study carried out. City would like retail on Massachusetts Avenue, which would conflict with the ramp.

Q: Size and price?

A: 46 units planned; 5 affordable units; parish hall 11,500 sq. ft. Most units: 2 BR; 2 baths and 11-12,000 sq. ft.; 2 1 BR units. Price range $400-$900,000. Floor area 78,000 sq. ft., far below what is allowed by zoning. Land will be owned by condo members; church will own the garden. The allowable Floor Area Ratio (FIA) is 1.75 but the plans call for 1.34.

Q: Distance from property of abutters?

A: 24 feet. 20 feet from the house on the left, increasing to 32 feet. There is a further 50' setback for the fourth floor. 7 parking spaces for the church.

Q: Why is the driveway to the underground parking being constructed right next to the abutters with the lights and noise of the garage door opening and closing?

A: (Did not answer directly.) They have found quiet garage doors so don't think noise will be a problem.

Q: A request was made to bring models, present different views on the computer.

A. Developers presenting June 10th at the N. Cambridge Stabilization Committee.

Q: What zoning relief is required?

A: Special permit, no zoning relief. A project is reviewed for special permit if it exceeds 60,000 sq. ft.

Q: Traffic study?

A: It was suggested neighbors do some of their own traffic monitoring/study. Beech St. entrance to parking planned without consulting abutters. Q: Will union labor be used? A: (Did not record answer.) Important for the developers to meet with the abutters.

Summary of concerns

  • location of ramp; traffic impact
  • building and style do not fit the neighborhood
  • bulk and mass of building
  • construction mitigation