PSNA Mar 2019

Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 7:00pm

Minutes of March 21, 2019 PSNA meeting

1791 Frost Terrace

Sean Hope and Jason Korb gave an update on their affordable housing development at1791 Mass Ave. They have formed a working group with the abutters, which has met for  a year, to shape some of the aspects of this development. Current status:

  • The project involves 3 lots, each of which has a house. The 3 houses will be incorporated into the development. The houses on Frost Terrace are in reasonable shape; the house on Mass Ave., which was the home and office for Dr. Gardner for many years, is in poor shape. They are working with Epsilon Associates to restore Dr. Gardener’s house, working from a photo of a “sister” house that once stood next door.
  • The development will be LEED certified.
  • They expect construction to begin around the end of April/beginning of May; this work should require 18 months to complete.
  • The activities that make a lot of noise will occur during the first 4 to 6 months. Most of the noise will come from driving wood pilings into the ground to support the new building that will occupy the space between the houses. Inspections of the impact of this pile driving on abutting buildings and digging will occur every 3 to 4 days until that phase is complete.
  • Many trees on site are being saved, making the site too shady for drought-resistant plants, which require more sun. Thus, an irrigation system will be installed.
  • The only parking spaces provided on site will be 3 handicapped spots. Parking for bikes will include 45 spaces, some inside and some outside.
  • They are providing an annual T pass per resident, not per household.
  • The completed building will include 40 units:
    • 2 studios
    • 12 1-bedroom
    • 13 2-bedroom
    • 13 3-bedroom
  • They intend to rent 70% of the apartments to people who currently live in Cambridge at a monthly rent of $600 and $1300. The current market rate for a 3-bedroom apartment is $6,000/mo.

Hope and Korb also own the lot at Walden and Mass Ave, former site of KFC that is currently operating as Darul Kebab, whose lease expires in 2020. They expect to put housing on that site at some point. For the first floor, they are considering a community kitchen, which would have the kinds of equipment required to meet the production standards required to sell food products. Access to such facilities to produce a family recipe for jam or tomato sauce at a small scale could literally put some folks in business.    

Increasing the demolition

Steve Barrage, resident of Stearns Street, described development activities on Stearns Street, which is 2 blocks long and Chetwynd Road, a cul-de-sac with 8 houses, that extends Stearns after a jog across Newell Street.

Neighbors are concerned that 3 old houses in this area will be demolished to build more housing on these small lots. The house at 60 Stearns has been sold to a developer who plans to build 2 duplexes on the lot. Another lot on Stearns and a lot on Chetwynd are at risk for the same fate.

To allow for more time for neighbors and developers to work out solutions that can work with existing historical buildings, Barrage is seeking support to extend demolition delay that the Historical Commission can a impose from 6 to 12 months, as some other towns do. The hope is that the financial calculations such a delay would introduce into profit/loss calculations would discourage developments that are focused on making a fast buck and encourage developers who are interested in historical preservation. The observation was made that this kind of activity was rippling across the city, targeting corner lots to avoid required setbacks.

Brick sidewalks

Diane Beck from the Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy is working to get the city to install more brick sidewalks and maintain them to keep them flat and safe. In addition to the attractive appearance of brick walks, Beck maintains that they are easier and more cost-effective to maintain in that individual bricks can be replaced when they deteriorate instead of having to tear up the entire sidewalk.

One complaint about brick sidewalks, which the minute-taker voiced at the meeting, is that brick sidewalks can deteriorate to the point that they introduce hazards, such as when bricks are dislodged or when the sidewalk foundation settles so that the passage becomes wavy. Ms. Beck reports that some of this reflects older practices of installation and city failure to maintain these sidewalks afterward.