Let’s create opportunity and community through affordable housing, but 2072 project isn’t the way
Cambridge can be a land of opportunity for working people and their families, as I know from experience. After growing up in Ethiopia, I came to the United States to attend college more than 40 years ago, then settled in Cambridge in 1989. I worked hard, raised a family and bought a home in a modest and friendly neighborhood in the north of the city.
Recently I learned that developers are planning to build a nine-story tower next to my home, exceeding local zoning ordinances. The proposed building, at 2072 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge, will provide affordable housing that is much needed for working families such as ours. But the scale of the building is completely out of proportion to our neighborhood. It will block the light and loom over our family’s modest two-story home. It will bring additional traffic to our narrow, congested street, which is already subject to large rush-hour traffic jams.
Coming from the birthplace of ancient cultures, I appreciate the rich history of this area. From my front door I can see a national landmark – the Henderson Carriage Building – and the Walden Street Bridge. Drilling for the deep foundation of the high-rise building will shake the historic homes on our block. Nearly two years of construction activity will follow, bringing noise, dust, fumes and more traffic.
I know how important affordable housing is for each person and family that benefits from it, and I applaud the efforts to expand opportunities for working families such as mine. But it’s important to also consider the community where buildings are being built. I love our peaceful, diverse, residential neighborhood. We can accommodate new buildings, but they should fit the scale and spirit of what is already here. The tallest building we have in our neighborhood is six stories. That seems like a reasonable maximum for the new building, and that is what local zoning laws would allow.
Cambridge has been good to us. Our children flourished in local public schools. I have worked for decades in a local business. After dinner, my wife and I go for walks in our beautiful neighborhood. I would welcome new neighbors to join us here and enjoy the benefits of Cambridge as we have. But I hope city officials and others will take the neighborhood into account when making their plans.
A Walden Street resident
This post and a reader comment were updated Aug. 9, 2021, to remove the letter writer’s name after reports of harassment.
To sign a petition to bring affordable housing to this site but at a smaller size please email:
Thank you for this heartfelt statement. Cambridge is good to us all and I hope this message of inclusion and sensitivity to neighbors gets through to the City. All that is wanted is reason and adherence to local zoning practice and law.
I’m glad to have neighbors with roots in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most fascinating countries. I agree with your suggestion that the project should be revised to fit local zoning laws. Cambridge’s Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) recommends a 6-story maximum, with setbacks, for a site like this. That would be a better guideline to use, rather than taking advantage of the state-level 40B law to bypass all local ordinances.