Cambridge Crossing (NorthPoint) | East Cambridge/Charlestown | Cambridge/Boston

DZH22

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
7,891
Reaction score
11,427
Isn't that likely a feature not a bug. We often talk about building "walls of buildings" along highways as an urban design approach to buffer the rest of the area from the highway. I am sure the rest of Cambridge Crossing benefits from the building wall buffering highway noise.
Wouldn't it have made more sense to go as high as possible next to the highway so the majority of the buildings' tenants wouldn't be subjected to the noise (and regular) pollution? Instead everybody's windows are right by highway ramps!

By the way, there's nothing (visually) that draws me in from the O'Brien Highway side either. I'm in the area every week and never venture in.
 

Ruairi

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
Messages
434
Reaction score
295
Wouldn't it have made more sense to go as high as possible next to the highway so the majority of the buildings' tenants wouldn't be subjected to the noise (and regular) pollution? Instead everybody's windows are right by highway ramps!

By the way, there's nothing (visually) that draws me in from the O'Brien Highway side either. I'm in the area every week and never venture in.
go in, have a look, they've done a good job with the park and building layout.
As far as I know, the buildings looking out over the railway and highway are all commercial and not residential.
Building the space with it's back to that wasteland makes sense to me.
And I'm not sure what more they could have done connecting it to O'brien highway. The GLX was always going to be elevated and act as some sort of barrier. They've clearly thought about the low-rise buildings around the station (REI) and how they feed in to the central green area.
Given what this area was and what the site restrictions are, I think they've done very well so far.
 

ivyhedge

Active Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2013
Messages
464
Reaction score
325
Agreed, @Ruairi

Folks know I live here, and have since 2013 so I am biased positively toward much of what has happened here (certainly not so for everything).

One thing I do like very much, however, is the curtain wall against the tracks: that Lots EF, G, JK, N, and H absorb sound from I-93 and the Gillmore Bridge is fabulous for anyone who remembers trying to enjoy movie nights in 2017 with white noise - mostly from the direction of Charlestown - omnipresent.

Now, the argument is that at least two of the remaining northern lots (A, B, C, & D) will be residential (and Lot N is), so they will suffer some noise pollution. And the upper realm of Lot I will, as well. Sure. This is a city. And those are (I & N), or are likely to be, apartments. Regardless, most of the park area *now* sounds like a park with some retail and corporate surrounding it. Frak - despite being enveloped by construction it doesn't *sound* like we are. Those big lots that are nearing completion have sonically isolated us in a beneficial manner. Further, our view of - as @Ruairi describes it - the wasteland is also mitigated. Win. Win.

go in, have a look, they've done a good job with the park and building layout.
As far as I know, the buildings looking out over the railway and highway are all commercial and not residential.
Building the space with it's back to that wasteland makes sense to me.
And I'm not sure what more they could have done connecting it to O'brien highway. The GLX was always going to be elevated and act as some sort of barrier. They've clearly thought about the low-rise buildings around the station (REI) and how they feed in to the central green area.
Given what this area was and what the site restrictions are, I think they've done very well so far.
 

gac108

New member
Joined
Jul 22, 2020
Messages
65
Reaction score
98
Isn't that likely a feature not a bug. We often talk about building "walls of buildings" along highways as an urban design approach to buffer the rest of the area from the highway. I am sure the rest of Cambridge Crossing benefits from the building wall buffering highway noise.
That was going to be my response as well. It works as a barrier here because it's not like there's a view of the ocean or even downtown, it's just elevated highway, and in that sense it doesn't completely isolate it any more than the T tracks and other ground barriers always have. It's the best use of an awkward, closed-in space. I like that it's its own little neighborhood and has green spaces and water features to make little interior oases. It will be much quieter in there with the buildings blocking the sound. The rearrangement of the green line tracks have also opened up that side along the CX "entranceways" and the developments along McGrath by Twin City Plaza will have easy walks over there.
 

gac108

New member
Joined
Jul 22, 2020
Messages
65
Reaction score
98
@gac108 - The remaining lots (with structures planned) are: A, B, C, D, LM, I2, Q2 R, V1. Sites I3 and V2 will likely be temporary event areas (I3) or extended plot (V2's farmers' market).

The lots under construction are: EF, G, H, U, I, and Q1 (punchcard stage).

Finally, the lots delivered are: S, T, JK, W, and N.
Wow that's a LOT more than I counted! I guess some of the larger looking blocks may in fact be 2 or more lots, but that makes this a more complete neighborhood when some more housing components are added.
 

fatnoah

Active Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2012
Messages
109
Reaction score
72
Now, the argument is that at least two of the remaining northern lots (A, B, C, & D) will be residential (and Lot N is), so they will suffer some noise pollution. And the upper realm of Lot I will, as well. Sure. This is a city
I've lived in the building next to CVS on Charles Circle with a living room that overlooked the action, and there's very little that I've experienced that can compare to that for noise pollution. The Red Line, constant flow of ambulances, screaming drunks, honking horns, and everything else that an urban environment can offer. It all blends into the background at some point. Once I made it through Saturday and most of Sunday before even noticing that the Red Line shut down for the weekend.

Traffic isn't the only source of noise. I've also lived with my bedroom overlooking the alley between Newbury Street and Comm Ave. Starting at 6AM, every morning was a cacophony of slamming dumpsters as the commercial trash haulers made their rounds. Similarly, I lived on floor 36 of the Longfellow and got to listen to the surprisingly loud, non-stop noise of air handlers and other mechanicals from Charles River Plaza. Again, these were all things that I got used to after a week in the city. Somewhat ironically, the quiet of the suburbs has taken me much longer to get used to in each of the three times I've moved out of the city proper.
 

maxdatabook

New member
Joined
Oct 6, 2020
Messages
40
Reaction score
101
IMO this hits the nail on the head for my biggest problem with this area. It creates a giant wall along the Leverett Connector which lacks both grace and permeability. It's easily the worst proportioned neighborhood of an already poorly proportioned city. There is nothing inviting to draw one in. It's a giant barrier, plain and simple.
My first visit to the area was with my camera to document my disgust at the project, of which I knew nothing about, except what I saw driving over the Gilmore Bridge. After walking around, doing some research, looking at it in a global context, talking to young professionals I decided my first impressions were based on a knee-jerk anti- lower-interest rates wealth-inequality cauldron, anti-skyscraper attitude etc etc. Now I try to stay neutral.

I was filming there one day and a construction worker came up and talked. He said, go talk to the boss over there if you want. It was a positive vibe.

And the park IS really nice.

All that said, I won't be paying the $30 it will probably cost to park there for 15 minutes in the future. Maybe I'll move there haha! Problem solved :) For now, I want to enjoy the warm and fuzzies ;)

What do you think they should have developed on that land?
 

DZH22

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
7,891
Reaction score
11,427
What do you think they should have developed on that land?
They could have kept it mostly the same, but made the residentials 40-50 stories (or even more) instead of the wide/stumpy boxes we're ending up with. Also one of the regular office buildings (not the labs) could have easily gone taller. Between the lax FAA heights and lack of immediate NIMBY neighbors it was a dark-horse area for even netting a new tallest building. I understand keeping the labs short (although the 349' one in Longwood shows it's possible to go semi-tall) but underbuilding the residential is a mistake. Also, it just absolutely kills me that the whole area is shorter than the Seaport despite having the highest FAA limits allowed in the entire urban area. Just a few taller (and thinner?) towers would have aesthetically made all the difference in the world, not to mention helped alleviate more of the housing demand.
 
Last edited:

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
7,517
Reaction score
2,341
Youre original complaint was that it creates a wall and giant barrier, wouldnt 40-50 story high rises as suggested above create even more of a barrier? It definitely wouldnt create less of one. The argument isnt making a whole lot of sense.

IMO this hits the nail on the head for my biggest problem with this area. It creates a giant wall along the Leverett Connector which lacks both grace and permeability. It's easily the worst proportioned neighborhood of an already poorly proportioned city. There is nothing inviting to draw one in. It's a giant barrier, plain and simple.
 

bigpicture7

Senior Member
Joined
May 5, 2016
Messages
2,071
Reaction score
1,376
Youre original complaint was that it creates a wall and giant barrier, wouldnt 40-50 story high rises as suggested above create even more of a barrier? It definitely wouldnt create less of one. The argument isnt making a whole lot of sense.
stick, I'm pretty sure it's as simple as DZ liking the previous view of the Back Bay skyline from the Leverett connector ramps. He wanted thin buildings so you could still see Hancock, Pru, Dalton, etc. as you drive in. That ship has sailed, and I don't think the view from the Leverett ramps is tied to anyone's profitability, so there was little motivation to preserve it save for a few skyline enthusiasts. I must say, though, that I too preferred the previous view if I had to choose. Now we'll just have to focus on ensuring there's never any traffic on those ramps so the present view doesn't last more than a few seconds : )
 

DZH22

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
7,891
Reaction score
11,427
Youre original complaint was that it creates a wall and giant barrier, wouldnt 40-50 story high rises as suggested above create even more of a barrier? It definitely wouldnt create less of one. The argument isnt making a whole lot of sense.
40-50 story highrises usually get to be thinner and better proportioned. However, let's say we leave the wall as is... It still makes sense to have a couple much taller buildings further from the highway, particularly residentials. For now it's basically a nearly impermeable wall, which then looks through to another set of wall-like buildings. Look at something like the Alcott, which was originally a couple floors taller but made slightly wider when it was shortened. A more extreme example is that lab building proposed next to the current State Street building and South Station, which is much wider now than it was when it was proposed as a taller (but still too short/wide) office block. A residential would have been able to be even less wide than that, and hit about 600'. We're pretty much the only US city of our caliber where the majority of new construction is wider than it is tall.

I can't stand Vancouver but all those residentials at least give off the appearance of height, even if they aren't particularly high. They aren't a football-field wide either. They just happen to have ugly designs, which is a different argument.
 

DZH22

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
7,891
Reaction score
11,427
stick, I'm pretty sure it's as simple as DZ liking the previous view of the Back Bay skyline from the Leverett connector ramps. He wanted thin buildings so you could still see Hancock, Pru, Dalton, etc. as you drive in. That ship has sailed, and I don't think the view from the Leverett ramps is tied to anyone's profitability, so there was little motivation to preserve it save for a few skyline enthusiasts. I must say, though, that I too preferred the previous view if I had to choose. Now we'll just have to focus on ensuring there's never any traffic on those ramps so the present view doesn't last more than a few seconds : )
If you look through the initial wall and there was actually some peaks beyond it, it would look more organic and integrated into the rest of the city. Instead it's just going to be like 3 rows of wall-like buildings, which are visually soul-crushing.

Imagine the Hancock half as tall and twice as blocky? That's what we'd end up with if it was proposed in 2021. The last few years have been a revelation, but those are all projects that were at least a decade in the making. We're backsliding again, and underbuilding max-FAA neighborhoods like this virtually guarantees a future of aesthetic mediocrity for Boston going forward.
 

DZH22

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
7,891
Reaction score
11,427
I'm not just judging it "from the highway." I'm judging it overall by how it fits in with the rest of the city, and frankly it doesn't. I understand the rush to build many of the parcels, but they should have held out on a couple of the residentials and really went for broke. 100% of the area is poorly proportioned, and the only decent piece of architecture is this thing which was built 15 years ago and isn't even technically part of the development! It's sad that people think I should apologize because my eyes still work and my standards for good architecture fall above "wholly mediocre."

1625100024461.png


The development is the architectural equivalent of this. It's nothing to be proud of, even if you like the park space. Sorry not sorry.

1625100256592.png
 

Ruairi

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
Messages
434
Reaction score
295
I'm not just judging it "from the highway." I'm judging it overall by how it fits in with the rest of the city, and frankly it doesn't. I understand the rush to build many of the parcels, but they should have held out on a couple of the residentials and really went for broke. 100% of the area is poorly proportioned, and the only decent piece of architecture is this thing which was built 15 years ago and isn't even technically part of the development! It's sad that people think I should apologize because my eyes still work and my standards for good architecture fall above "wholly mediocre."

View attachment 14399

The development is the architectural equivalent of this. It's nothing to be proud of, even if you like the park space. Sorry not sorry.

View attachment 14406
I don't think anyone's asked you to apologize.
Maybe they should have gone higher. It's all a matter of opinion.
I kinda like the massing. I feel it adds to how the public space and the whole experience works.
Those portapotties kinda resemble a lovely Georgian terrace ;)
 

maxdatabook

New member
Joined
Oct 6, 2020
Messages
40
Reaction score
101
If you look through the initial wall and there was actually some peaks beyond it, it would look more organic and integrated into the rest of the city. Instead it's just going to be like 3 rows of wall-like buildings, which are visually soul-crushing.

Imagine the Hancock half as tall and twice as blocky? That's what we'd end up with if it was proposed in 2021. The last few years have been a revelation, but those are all projects that were at least a decade in the making. We're backsliding again, and underbuilding max-FAA neighborhoods like this virtually guarantees a future of aesthetic mediocrity for Boston going forward.
Interesting! Hadn't thought about it the way you do. I agree, there is something "heavy" about the way the building sit on the land. If they were taller, wouldn't they cast longer shadows into Cambridge? As I mentioned, coming over the Gilmore Bridge the buildings certainly look obnoxious. However, when I'm on the other side the development seems nice. I too wish the building had more space between them. But I have that complaint for everything ;)
 

gac108

New member
Joined
Jul 22, 2020
Messages
65
Reaction score
98
I'm not just judging it "from the highway." I'm judging it overall by how it fits in with the rest of the city, and frankly it doesn't. I understand the rush to build many of the parcels, but they should have held out on a couple of the residentials and really went for broke. 100% of the area is poorly proportioned, and the only decent piece of architecture is this thing which was built 15 years ago and isn't even technically part of the development! It's sad that people think I should apologize because my eyes still work and my standards for good architecture fall above "wholly mediocre."

View attachment 14399

The development is the architectural equivalent of this. It's nothing to be proud of, even if you like the park space. Sorry not sorry.

View attachment 14406
"The development is the architectural equivalent of this. It's nothing to be proud of, even if you like the park space. Sorry not sorry."

Wow, somebody's got a flair for the dramatic!
 

gac108

New member
Joined
Jul 22, 2020
Messages
65
Reaction score
98
When it was the empty space within the oval I looked at the FAA map and thought "wow, think of the possibilities!!!" Shame on me for dreaming big I guess. The end product is the death of that dream.

View attachment 14464
Believe me, I'm ALL about maximum height anywhere and everywhere it is possible. I just never imagined anything super tall in this CX location because it would seem extremely out of place in context of all that's around it. I would say that a 900+ft tower around North Station area would be fine since there are many other 500+' buildings now in that area, but even though it's pretty close from CX to North Station, it's what is in the immediate surrounding areas of both that dictates the context. That's why I think the existing and planned buildings are wholly appropriate, if not incredibly interesting or creative to look at. As with Assembly area, they build up nicely to what comes a bit further down at North Station. The interior environment between the buildings while walking around within CX is what's most important and so far that seems on track. My vision would be to have 2 800-900ft towers around North Station and toward Gov't Ctr area, a few 600-700+ off Columbus in South End/BB and cover the Pike between Berkley and Clarendon, and 2 900-1000' at Hynes, or L&T, or covering the Pike parcel at Boylston and/or combined with the garage that has Bukowskis/Kings in it. That's all I ask for before I'm too old to appreciate it (so about another 30-40 years lol).
 

Top