Porter Square and North Cambridge August Update

Here are a few local updates you might be interested in:

At last Thursday’s Porter Square Neighborhood Association meeting, Stone River Properties (property manager)/Urban Spaces LLC (property developer) gave a presentation on their plans to demolish the existing “Bob Slate” store and replace it with a 20 unit project.  They didn’t have handouts and don’t yet have a website for the project so my notes may have a few errors but I think I’ve got the meat of the proposal correct.  The stores in the current building will all vacate the property (the owners hope as late as possible) and Miso, which had had a couple more years on its lease, is expecting to leave, I believe, in September.  The proponents will need a Special Permit from the Planning Board simply because of the project’s size but otherwise it appears to be in conformity with all relevant zoning setbacks, parking regulations and so forth.  They hope to be in front of the Planning Board sometime in September, start the project around next April and finish 11-12 months later.  The project will be four stories and a basement on Mass Ave, ground floor parking with two floors of units above that in the middle, and then an attached single family house of about 1800 SF with a detached garage.  There will be a variety of balconies/decks on the front and rear of the building, façade indents and a variety of glass, brick and stone-type surface materials.  While the 19 condos in the main building will be rental condos, the proponents may seek a subdivision variance to break off the single family house in the back and sell it.  The existing ground floor retail spaces along Mass Ave will come back as retail (and will be truly ground floor which will improve access to them), with a small lobby and elevator for access to the basement and upper floors.  There will be 20 parking spaces with exit and entry to the ‘courtyard’ parking area via Allen Street, about 60 feet in from Mass Ave.  It wasn’t entirely clear how people would get to the driveway, most likely by driving down Allen from Orchard, but it’s possible all or part of one-way Allen Street could be made two way.  The units will mostly be a mix of one bedroom (about 750 square feet) and two bedroom (from 950-1150 square feet) with the single family being three bedrooms.  It is not yet clear whether they will include the cost of parking spots in the rent or charge extra for it.  In other properties they own, Stone River says that it has found parking space utilization to be less than 50%, though it’s possible folks own cars and park them on local streets rather than rent parking spots.

The Kaya Restaurant in Porter Square closed last Thursday.  The proponents of that project (a boutique hotel with a small restaurant) hope to have demo start around the beginning of September.

The Lesley/AIB church project is moving along.  You can check out their weekly project updates here:  http://www.lesley.edu/artsconstruction/  and you can sign up for email updates at:  construction@lesley.edu. They had been hoping to move the church in September, but I’m not sure exactly when.  If you want to watch that event, email construction@lesley.edu and ask them to let you know when it’ll be moved.

In this year’s Community Preservation Act book, the City has language about putting $1,500,000 into Linear Park from Russell Field to Mass Ave to address landscaping, irrigation, surface restoration, fitness equipment and furniture.  This planning is somewhat independent of the flooding issues around the Alewife head house and by Davis Square.  The City is investigating options for this flooding but things are complicated by the fact that the MBTA owns a bunch of the relevant land and some of the worst flooding isn’t even in Cambridge.  And, apparently, the drainage issues are much more complex than one might initially think.  I’ve had a handful of people express an interest in helping keep a focus on Linear Park- if you’d like to be in that group, just let me know.  I’m not sure what final changes to the park might look like, but the earlier people get involved in the planning process, the better the final result.

There have been a couple of robberies along Linear Park in the past several weeks.  Commissioner Haas told me that the crime analysis unit looked at them and didn’t see a connection between them or a trend for the general public to be aware of so they didn’t sent out an Alert but they did send out an Alert about a Jackson Place stabbing and subsequent arrest on 13 August.  The Alert system is sort of a combination of art/science so it’s not always clear what rises to the level of an Alert and what doesn’t.  You can learn more about it, and other notification procedures such as CPD’s twitter feed here:  http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cityClerk/CommitteeReport.cfm?instance_id=744

The Rindge Ave/Mass Ave intersection has been marked out with signs on the median strip and arrows in the street showing that there is a left turn option from the left hand lane of Northbound Mass Ave.  Hopefully this will help keep traffic from backing up there.  I’ve asked the City to revisit the timing of the walk signal across Mass Ave, though, as right now people think they’re about to get a walk and start across from the Keefe’s Funeral Home side only to realize that left turns off of Rindge are coming right at them.  If you have any thoughts, you can share them with Sue Clippinger at SClippinger@Cambridgema.gov.

I think that’s it for now.  Enjoy the rest of the summer.  Don’t forget the Rindge Ave pool is still open daily 11 AM through 7 PM until 2 September.  Even open with no deep end and not much shade it’s still a pleasant place to take a dip.

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