A few weeks ago I was excited to join with over a hundred other neighbors from in and around the Central Square area to add my name as a signatory to the Central Square Restoration Petition (CSRP). Primarily sponsored by Nabil Sater, longtime Cambridge resident and owner of the historic Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub, this zoning amendment would implement a number of changes that I believe will help strengthen and expand Central Square as a vibrant and diverse mixed-use district while allowing for new, desperately needed housing development in this transportation-rich neighborhood.
A Better Cambridge has endorsed the CSRP as we believe it charts the right course for future growth in Central Square. We are most impressed with a provision that would increase the allowed Floor Area Ratio (the way “density” is defined in the zoning code) in Central Square. Initial calculations suggest that the this could open an additional more than 1,000,000 square feet of new residential development in the neighborhood. This equals approximately 1,000 potential new residential units in Central Square, all without increasing the maximum building height.
The Cambridge Planning Board will hold a public hearing tomorrow to receive public comment on the proposed zoning petition. I hope you will join me and let the Planning Board members know of your support.
If you cannot attend tomorrow’s hearing -- or to reinforce your message -- I encourage you to send a brief message of support to the planning board by emailing [email protected] who will then pass your note on to the board members.
In addition to the Floor Area Ratio increase, the CSRP includes other changes such as (but not limited to): restrictions on formula (“chain”) businesses, creating new incentives for development of small ground-floor retail spaces for local businesses, and implementing a system for reduced parking requirements in new residential and commercial developments.
I love Central Square and have lived in or near the square since I moved to Cambridge over 13 years ago. While the square is arguably the closest thing to a “downtown” Cambridge, it is a shadow of the commercial hub it once was. To this day it remains dismantled, an effect of depression-era politics that pushed property owners in Cambridge and around the country to remove multiple stories from their buildings to avoid large tax burdens.
The C2 process, red ribbon commission, and countless other studies have examined the future growth of Central Square though it remains one of the most studied and least acted-upon parts of Cambridge. The CSRP aims to return the neighborhood to its former pre-depression era status and fulfill its recent designation as a Massachusetts State Cultural District. These zoning recommendations aim to increase the potential for substantial new housing, expand the local retail footprint, enliven side streets and further activate the streetscape in Central Square.
I hope you will A Better Cambridge and me in supporting this important petition for Central Square’s future.