I first heard of this project as a self-storage building at 52 New St. and duly went and listened to the proposal onsite. I told the developers at the time that they needed to add affordable housing. The project is now proposed as a mixed-use development including storage in the rear, a neighborhood gym and 22 affordable rental units along the front and Danehy Park.

The developers have worked hard and listened to a lot of folks before settling on the design by Mark Boyes-Watson. The residential units will be owned and managed by Just-A-Start, which has stated this would be its lowest cost acquisition ever. The 22 units would represent nearly one-third of the 75 new affordable units targeted for 2020.

The full list of public benefits includes:

bullet-gray-small $2 million in linkage fees for the Affordable Housing Trust.
bullet-gray-small Storage for low-income families in transition.
bullet-gray-small Inclusion of a neighborhood gym (a smaller version of Evolve).
bullet-gray-small Storage for Danehy Park youth league athletic equipment.
bullet-gray-small A bike and pedestrian path along perimeter connecting neighborhoods.
bullet-gray-small The largest private solar array in the city.
bullet-gray-small A zero-net energy storage building.
bullet-gray-small An art wall along the park.

The project meets a range of community interests in terms of substantial affordable housing units, clean energy/energy efficiency and other public benefits. It has the support of Mayor Marc McGovern and a majority of councilors, but a two-thirds vote will be required at the zoning hearing Monday. Opposition has stemmed mostly from members of the Evolve gym who do not want such an inexpensive and friendly spot to go away. Though much loved, the gym was not a financial success, and resurrection is not realistic. Further opposition comes from those who do not think this is a site for storage or who, in fact, think of that as a dirty word. I think storage is a growing need in a dense city such as ours, as families downsize, come apart, need time between moving out and finding a new home. And while there are, as the opposition points out, a number of storage units nearby, they are all single-story buildings that will likely not be here in 10 years because of the developmental pressures in this part of the city.

I also urge we put a large mural on the back of the building and facing the park!

While Cambridge debates the need for more affordable housing citywide, New Street represents a small but creative step in the right direction. Twenty-two units coming online next year can make a difference to many families.

I urge support for this project.

Ruth Ryals, Upland Road 


Young Cantabrigians need housing built now

I grew up in Cambridge, my family grew a small business here, I played at Danehy Park, graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and hope to raise a family here someday. But that’s not promised.

Cambridge needs more affordable housing desperately or the next generation won’t be able to stay. I have followed the proposal for affordable housing on New Street and I fully support it. Twenty-two units will make a difference to 22 families.

But I care about more than housing. I, along with many others in my generation, care about climate change. How can a city that professes to be a leader reject a proposal that will provide the largest private solar array in the city and the largest zero-net energy building in the city? These are the types of projects we must support today – not sometime in the future.

And while we’re not excited by a storage building, a neighborhood concerned by heavy traffic and congestion must know storage is a low-traffic, low-impact use. And if young families in small apartments want to stay, they will need someplace to store they stuff they clear out making room for a nursery or a family room.

I want to stay in Cambridge. But I, and young Cantabrigians like me, will likely be unable to afford living in this city. We can’t just talk about housing policy. We must actually build affordable units now. I support the New Street proposal.

Mahmood Abu-Rubieh, Brookline Street