By Stephen Quigley
At last week’s public meeting held by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) concerning the 60-66 Cambridge Street project, many of the supporters of the project were members of the trade unions. These spokespersons stressed the construction jobs that will be needed to build the two office towers that will reach more than 200 feet high and act as a buffer between the Charlestown community and the I-93 highway. What also was clear from the comments by the trade union representatives is the high regard that all of the unions have for Fallon Company, which has built many projects in Boston, earning an excellent track record. Fallon will be the lead builder of the project. Ed Owens Jr., whose family has owned the four-acre site for more than 35 years, spoke first in the presentation. Owens said that the project that is planned is “the best use for the site.” Managing Director Michael Barelli, spokesperson from Fallon, then went into the history of the project, noting that there have been more than 50 neighborhood meetings over the last 20 months. “We have heard the feedback,” said Barelli. “With Sullivan Square holding so much potential, this project must be done right.” The goal of the development is to connect the neighborhood with Sullivan Square and the Hood Park, all of which lie west of Rutherford Ave. Barelli added that once done, the site will create a significant park for the public and will be a green site with “trees, trees, and more trees. This will be a place where people will want to come.” Included in the plans are not only the office areas, that will be primarily for life sciences, but also retail, restaurant, and other commercial uses. He stressed that the buildings will be rounded with soft curves and that the landscaping will be significant. He also noted that the whole site will be raised five feet to account for a 100-year flood event. Perhaps the most interesting piece of the project is the partnership with Just a Start Corporation that will offer workforce development for those residents seeking to enter the life science field. “There is a lot to like,” said resident Joanne Massaro. She added her concerns about density, saying there is only so much to be done with traffic. Tom Tinlin, the former Commissioner of the BostonTransportation Department who now is at Howard Stein Hudson, noted that it is important to have the public trust. “There are a lot of pluses,” he said, specifically mentioning the safe cycling routes. “The project is pretty cool, but could use some more trees,” said resident Sean Boyle. Resident Dan H. Jaffe said he would like to see space for arts and a cultural gallery. Calling this “a special moment for Charlestown,” he suggested that if people have concerns, then they should see Kendall Square and then compare it to what is being suggested for here. Resident Nancy Johnsen added, “The lost village (an existing neighborhood in Charlestown located near the area of the proposed development) should be part of Charlestown.” Johnson also voiced her concerns over traffic and added, “There can never be enough green spaces.” Charlestoiwn resident Diane Vallee who was not able to attend the meeting said, “Low attendance at the 66 Cambridge Street meeting does not indicate endorsement of the proposal. Low attendance at a BPDA meeting can indicate meeting exhaustion, overwhelming schedules, rejection, as well as many other reasons, including summer vacation. The Charlestown community has spoken with 2,700 signatures on a petition for a Charlestown Comprehensive Master Plan which includes “meaningful community engagement” as per Mayor Wu’s directive. Approximately 14% of our population support the Comprehensive Master Plan while PLAN Charlestown seeks 200 respondents, 1% of the population, ignoring the petition.” Barelli noted that the comment period on the project will end on September 9. He added that the project does not need any variances and the height of both buildings is lower than what is allowed in the zoning regulations. He said a “robust traffic study” will be conducted in the fall. “It is helpful to hear feedback,” Barelli said. Sarah Black of the BPDA can be reached at [email protected].