Jerry’s Pond expands wetlands, delivers local jobs in proposal to developer by neighborhood groups
Neighborhood groups are challenging IQHQ to make Jerry’s Pond, the polluted former swimming hole it has come to own, as nice a green space as the developer plans to make its future lab space. A Friday letter outlines nearly 30 proposals by the Rindge Avenue Community, Friends of Jerry’s Pond, Reservoir Church and Just-A-Start Corp. ranging from open space protection to local hiring.
“We want to recognize that IQHQ has made a good faith effort to begin the process of developing publicly accessible areas around Jerry’s Pond. But we feel the proposals are not yet sufficient,” says the letter, shared Friday with Cambridge Day. “We are pleased to present a community vision for the restoration of Jerry’s Pond and surrounding areas and for linking community residents with economic opportunities associated with IQHQ’s development.”
Some of the groups’ boldest goals call for the pond to be expanded and reshaped into a more natural-looking pond from its current nearly rectangular shape, adding “compensatory wetlands” to the southwest corner; a relocated sidewalk with trees on both sides, as well as a two-way, off-street bikeway; more gathering places around the pond and a better connection with MBTA property, including improvements where the agency is “unlikely to do this needed updating on its own”; wooden boardwalks like at Alewife’s “constructed wetland” to Belmont, with high railings, diffused lighting and safety call boxes; a community meeting room at IQHQ; space for three food businesses such as coffee shops and sandwich shops, to be run by members of the Rindge Avenue neighborhood; and educational boosts in the biomedical and information technology fields that would lead to the hiring of three residents of the Rindge Avenue community and an additional three graduates of Just-A-Start’s training programs each year.
The letter asks that IQHQ presents no new plans until it has incorporated the neighbor group’s proposal.
The developer said Friday through its local attorney, Anthony Galluccio, that while its initial plan for Jerry’s Pond got a “very good response,” it already planned an update based on early feedback and a comprehensive public process run through the Alewife Study Group – with major site improvements not limited to the pond itself.
It planned to release a next version after consultation around wildlife issues. “We are trying to open up public access [while] making sure no changes disrupt wildlife species or natural habitat,” Galluccio said. “We are confident that if we all work together, the community can better enjoy the Jerry’s Pond area.”
The neighborhood group’s full proposal is here:
Alison Field-Juma, a Neighborhood 9 resident who has chaired policy for the Mystic River Watershed Association and served as executive director for Oars, a watershed organization for the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord rivers west of Boston, hailed the idea of a “regenerated wetland landscape” in a letter released Saturday. “It is completely feasible to observe wetlands and pollution safety protocols that reach beyond IQHQ’s proposed cantilevered, hard deck along Rindge Avenue,” Field-Juma wrote, urging “investment in creating a new natural space, accessible to those who live and work there, that will benefit generations of people. This is a one-time opportunity to create something special at Jerry’s Pond after 60 years of neglect.”
IQHQ, a life sciences real estate development company based in Boston and San Diego, bought the 26-acre Alewife Park from GCP Applied Technologies in July for $125 million. (It followed that in November with another $54 million purchase on an office property nearby.) In January it shared plans for the site that includes three research buildings and an aboveground parking garage, all built within existing zoning, and improvements to Jerry’s Pond that would once again give the public access for recreation. It’s been behind chain-link fence for some six decades for environmental and health concerns resulting from its industrial history – dating back to the late 1800s, when it was known as “Jerry’s Pit” and being excavated for clay by brick-makers.
After the initial approach by IQHQ, the Harvard Square-based Ocean River Institute partnered with neighborhood groups to bring in an intern to coordinate a survey of what residents wanted from a future Jerry’s Pond. That led to the Friday proposal collaborated on by the Friends of Jerry’s Pond. the Rindge Community, Just-A-Start (owner of the Rindge Tower Apartments land) and nearby Reservoir Church.
A new deal on the deck
One standout element: IQHQ’s proposal of a deck along Rindge Avenue was dissatisfying as “a hard element of infrastructure supported by columns overlooking a pit rather than a regeneration and renaturalization of the pond bank. In this design, the pond remains a square pit – there is no reshaping of it into a pond, and limited areas are created for public access. Nor is there adequate space for trees or wetlands along Rindge Avenue,” the letter says.
In the neighbors’ version, space along Rindge is expanded into wetlands – given more testing for pollution.
“Our proposals for the restoration, renaturalization and regeneration of Jerry’s Pond and surrounding areas would create accessible open spaces to be used by all Cambridge residents, including, of course, the new lab tenants, all those in surrounding neighborhoods and especially the approximately 4,000 residents of affordable housing across the street,” the letter says to the developer. “Jerry’s Pond and the broader 26-plus acres under proposed development by IQHQ carries a toxic legacy, so we recognize and appreciate your commitment to upholding the highest standards of safety.”
But the letter also points to that legacy to argue for a “moral standard” that the proposals made by the neighbors are as important as the construction of the developer’s 745,000 square feet of lab space.
The letter was signed by Eric Grunebaum, of Friends of Jerry’s Pond; Shaithea Anusha Alam, the ORI intern and a Rindge Avenue resident, for the Rindge Community; the Rev. Lydia Shiu, for Reservoir Church’s Social Justice & Action initiative; and Carl Nagy-Koechlin, for Just-A-Start.
Ain’t it great how imagination doesn’t have to have a basis in reality.
Unless the proposal is to fill in part of the pond to make room, how exactly do these dreamers expect to fit a two-way bike path AND a tree line separation AND a jogging path AND another tree line separation AND a walking path AND a shore line?
The People’s Republic, leading the way in “magical” thinking since the 1960’s.
Visuals are lovely. Recreational ideals are marvelous. But the plan does not take into account modern science (detached from developer’s paid consultants), and the desparate need in the 2020’s to maintain an adaptation center for Climate change, and to protect existing habitat in a hydrologically complex watershed which it is a part. Much of the owner’s assessments are wrong regarding what exists in the area, and they did not have to provide a Notice of Intent which all watershed areas must provide throughout the United States, if in civilized environment. It would be wonderful to abide fully with modern attenuation processes and with realities on the ground of Jerry’s Pond and its 60 year old inhabitants which are laid out in Friends of Alewife Reservation’s book, “Biodiversity of the Alewife Reservation Area” written by professional scientists and distributed to most official agencies throughout the region.
Go slow and get the tests done so that more access can be secured and present animal and bird life protected, and hydrology of pond known, and not be developer’s assessmements. Jerry’s Pond has underground springs, and the owner lies about these facts and Jerry’s connections with Alewife Brook and Little River and Yates Pond. A disgrace that the neighbors are not more scrutinizing and have not hired their own professionals. This would get the neighborhood more in touch with the Pond and its surrounding inhabitants. Since much is already known, why buck the evidence?
A human park and passageways are great, but at what expense?
I hope someone saves this pretty story with pretty promises….. because fairy tales often turn out differently and somehow we forget.
Get real on this, community. Wildlife don’t want to have you get close. It is not the wealthy that are keeping you apart…. there are many ponds and paths equally open (I am low income and know this story). Wildlife leave when people abound…it is already happening at Jerry’s.
Often wildlife habitat is taken for financial purposes and there has to be a story because we are damaging our natural infrastructure. This is a continuing story in Cambridge as development moves up Cambridge Park Drive and now moves to the next available spot.
I do hope they give jobs to those who need them. That ought be good enough. I hope they do not intrude on another wildlife habitat. That would be a miracle.
Residents can bring all that about. Are you ready?