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The Tennis Petition

The following are some public comments given by the first signer of the Tennis Petition.

My name is Ann Tennis and I am Chair of the Cambridge Highlands Neighborhood Association. I am here tonight to speak on behalf of the Association.
Cambridge Highlands is neighborhood 13. A small neighborhood in the north west corner of Cambridge consisting of approximately 250 families. We are a neighborhood of stay-at-home parents, working parents, grandparents and newborns. We are of all ethnic backgrounds and from diverse walks of life. Our neighborhood borders the City of Belmont on the west, Fresh Pond Reservation on the east and the Alewife quadrangle on the south.
Now that I have defined who we are, I would like to discuss why we brought this petition. Cambridge Highlands was approached last spring regarding a new building proposed for the current Facials site. This would be an 85' high apartment building with frontage on the sidewalk of Concord Avenue. After issues were discussed and this brought to the planning board, the project did not go through; however, the builders comment made a dramatic impact on all of us. And I quote, " I may not be able to build an 85' apartment building on Concord Avenue but I certainly do not need your permission to build a 85' office building". Needless to say that comment left us reeling. Could he build an 85' office building? Could everyone on Concord Avenue build an 85' office building? We checked into this and found the answer very frightening. The answer was yes they could and No they did not need to contact us at all. That statement and the answer we found is what has stimulated this petition.
We, as a neighborhood are and have been very concerned about the growth of Cambridge from a building perspective. Cambridge is a city and as any city does, it grows. But the questions are when does it stop. As the Concord Avenue area was changing, the City was telling us that Concord Avenue was to be the gateway to Cambridge. Many, many people use Concord Avenue to access work, the reservation, the fresh pond mall and Boston proper.
What is a gateway to a city? Let's take the entrances to the City, first Kendall Square. As you come into Kendall Square- your first entrance into Cambridge, you are dwarfed by the buildings- no open space - no green space - just VERY tall buildings. Now look at Lechmere Square, again, buildings of 85' on both sides of the road. As you go up Mass Avenue from Central Square towards Harvard Square, we have a potpourri of sizes and shapes of buildings.
We are more and more becoming a cement city. There are few bastions left. One of them is Concord Avenue. Our petition is asking for down zoning for the overlay district only - from the sidewalk in 200 feet. The Concord Avenue area is unique, bordered on one side with Fresh Pond reservation, used by the entire city (and many from adjoining cities). Think of the view with a border of 85' buildings abutting the sidewalk. Think of the additional traffic emptying onto Concord Avenue. Presently, the wait to go from the rotary at Fresh Pond to our neighborhood is 4-5 lights. Presently Concord Avenue has a variety of heights of buildings; 2 stories; 3 stories; 4 stories and the RJ Kelly building is, I believe, 85'. This building is so out of scale with the balance of the street. This would only mean more gridlock.
As many of you know, Cambridge Highlands has been approached many, many times in the past from builders with a variety of proposals. As many of you also know, the Highlands is probably the most open minded neighborhood in this entire City. This petition only is asking for a reduction in building over 35' for the overlay district only, the first 200' of frontage. We are and have never been anti-development. We are and have always been willing to sit down and discuss what is to be developed and how it can fit into the neighborhood. Because of this and our reputation, I would like you to give this petition special attention knowing that the ultimate resolution should be for the betterment of all concerned.