Here are the comments I presented on the Normandy/Twining “Mass and Main” zoning petition, at the May 19, 2015 City Council meeting:
I respect the opinion that the tower is out of scale or out of place but I just don’t see it that way. It’s a unique site. The proposal at this site contributes, enhances, and improves its site and corner. Its specific human-scale elements are well conceived.
As far as precedent, the planning board’s letter states it well, that the implications for rezoning in other sites in Central Sq. or around the city is minimal. That is, again, because of the unique nature of this site. These developers and their architects have shown a willingness to design well and to commit to diverse and beneficial uses.
My one complaint is the excessive automobile parking ratio. As I stated at the recent Planning Board meeting, maybe 15 Zipcars with some free memberships and stipends for the affordable units in addition to Hubway memberships and T passes, can serve a huge portion of the mobility needs of future residents and reduce the need for automobile parking on site. The Planning Board’s recommended language for car sharing is a great step. But it’s not quite addressing the paradigm. The reason this density makes sense on this site is specifically because it does not need to be automobile oriented.
A little bit of perspective too. I grew up in towns where mayors would give up their first born daughter to get anyone to develop anything, with a lot of unfortunate outcomes. Our public process is superior and tends to arrive at beneficial results but it doesn’t have to be a black and white process.
We must maximize the quality of design, the economic and demographic contributions that development makes, and general community benefits. But we can do it from a collaborative attitude that celebrates the uniqueness of Cambridge that puts us in a position of having too much investment.