November 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007 - 7:00pm

PSNA election results

It was a landslide.

President, Susan Hunziker

Vice President, John Howard

Secretary, Margaret Studier

Treasurer, Mary O'Neill

Update from the shopping center

Maria Hanlon and Dan Giordano from Gravestar summarized some changes that you've probably noticed over the last year or so laid out plans for 2008. These projects have been completed over the last year:

a. Replaced the entrance & exit signs and the directional signs within the lot

b. Installed bollards along the sidewalks adjacent to the parking lot

c. Introduced tables and chairs near Emack & Bolio's, Qdoba, and Cafe Zing

d. Made several landscaping improvements, including planters for the new seating areas

e. Eliminated most of the comact spaces in the lot

f. Marked employee parking spaces clearly

g. Installed awnings along the Mass Ave side of CVS For 2008,

Gravestar will upgrade the kiosk in front of Tags. The clock on top that never worked will be replaced by one that does; the computer that worked for the first 48 hours after it was installed will be replaced with a bulletin board. (There's something to be said for low tech.) The kiosk will have three community bulletin boards available for posting and one locked display case. Also, the roof material will be replaced with glass, allowing more light in. New lighting has been installed in the community art windows along Mass Ave and White St, and new displays will be mounted in January. Also, they now control the window that CVS never knew what to do with, and it will be used to display information about green initiatives and about the shopping center itself.

Other changes planned for next year require a variance to the sign ordiance:

signs for Emack & Bolio's and Healthworks, improved window displays for CVS and Shaw's, and a "Porter Square" marker for portion of the CVS building that faces the T stop. Variances from the signage ordinance are required for the Healthworks signs because they are on the second floor and for the Emack & Bolio's signs because it is a second sign. The plans for the windows in CVS and Shaw's could be considered temporary signs because they are inside under glass, Gravestar wants to include them in its variance request so as to have more control over them.

The rationale provided for the variance is as follows:

a. These changes and additions are part of the ongoing master plan for improving the look and utility of the property that Gravestar has been working on since completing the site renovation.

b. The "Porter Square" marker will strengthen the connection between the shopping center and the community (i.e., a prominent sign that indicates you are in Porter Square). This marker will be visible from the T stop and will be useful to cars and pedestrians.

c. The graphics for the windows at Shaws will be better than the dull, blank windows currently on offer.

d. The program for the windows at CVS will provide some cohesion to the rather haphazard approach so far and also block some of the unsightly views into CVS.

e. The sign for E&B is needed to make the business visible from Mass Ave.

f. The sign for Healthworks will indicate where their premises actually are and be visible from Mass Ave and Elm St. Pictures of the proposed signs are available at Gravestar has not yet filed for the variance.

Community policing

We were to meet the new beat cop, but he had to change shifts with someone else and thus is no longer in the 'hood. However, Sgt. O'Connor, Commissioner Haas, and another officer whose name I did not catch joined us. (I was distracted because I was adjusting the restraints on one member of the community who introduced the same issue at every opportunity, regardless what we were actually discussing.) Several items of interest here:

a. We will be seeing more police on the streets fairly soon. A new class of recruits graduated from the academy the day of the meeting, and after a couple of weeks in the classroom, will be accompanying other officers on their respective rounds for a couple of months.

b. You are encouraged to report anything suspicious; these reports help the police identify patterns and target resources. It is particularly important to pay attention to such things during the holiday season so as to discourage those who want do avoid the crowds and do their Christmas shopping at your house. If you call 617-349-3300, you will be asked for your name and address but you are not required to provide it.

c. A log of criminal activity by neighborhood is available on the department web site and is updated on Wednesdays. Here's the link for North Cambridge:

Hotel Kaya A lot has happened since August, when we last saw the plans. Michael McKee, the original architect, is back on the project, and things have come together rapidly ever since. During an interim period when nothing much was happening, at Mr. Gim's request I put together this summary of comments from the previous meetings as a program for the neighborhood. I did not address any of the abutters' issues.

In the plans we saw, the building is roughly 24,000 sq. ft, which is the maximum size of a multi-family housing, including the stuff he could move on the back lot to the front. The building is 5 floors, and the top floor is set back. The front edge of the building lines up with that of the Masonic Temple, leaving room for outside seating that will probably be sheltered by an awning. The corner at Mass Ave and Porter Road curves at the property line and goes all the way down the transitional zone. The building designed on all sides. There is no flat back or side wall; windows are everywhere. The hotel has 50 small rooms: 12 x 20 x 9; the park is still there.

All vehicles will enter and leave the site from Mass Ave; all turns and all access will be extremely tight, but McKee believes it can be done. The taxi stand is on the side of the building next to the driveway, in a little alcove; an enclosed loading bay is behind it. The two-floor, 50-space underground garage is still there. The entrance to it and the garage itself are designed to accommodate the root ball of a tree that sits at the intersection of the Brady/Cole property, the temple, and the Kaya lot. The traffic study is underway, and the smaller hotels in Kendall and Harvard squares are being used as points of comparison. This project will require three variances. a. To put the garage and the entrance to it under the Residence B section of the lot. b. To build in the transitional zone required on the Commercial C section of the lot c. To increase the FAR to accommodate the structure. Pictures of the plans are available here:

The BZA hearing has been scheduled for January 24, 2008.