Middlesex County Courthouse Redevelopment | 40 Thorndike St | East Cambridge

bigpicture7

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everything about this project sucks
Yes, the new aesthetics suck. The removal of security barriers, vast blank cinderblock walls, a 40' wide block-long loading zone from the street level: those changes do not suck for the neighborhood this sits in.
 

DZH22

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I just found this render I haven't seen before. It's even worse than I could have imagined. It really loses its impact with the loss of the top floors too. Cutting a building for being "too tall" when IT WAS ALREADY THERE FOR 50 YEARS is just the type of bend-over attitude we don't need to see from local developers. It feels like a kick in the teeth to my childhood memories. (actually my 0-39 year old memories)

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bigpicture7

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Cutting a building for being "too tall" when IT WAS ALREADY THERE FOR 50 YEARS is just the type of bend-over attitude we don't need to see from local developers.
Some people's reality isn't the one that exists; rather, it's the one they maintain in their heads.
 

RandomWalk

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Sadly, the parking garage on First St is going nowhere. It’s part of the required parking for 40 Thorndike.
 

bigpicture7

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Sadly, the parking garage on First St is going nowhere. It’s part of the required parking for 40 Thorndike.
Sure, it may be now. But that garage is owned by the city. If we ever achieve a more car-free future, the city could decide to redevelop that large parcel.
 

bobthebuilder

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That photo really shows the potential for First Street to have a high spine of 30-50 story tall buildings connecting Kendall Square with Lechmere Square.
I think this would be a huge mistake. One of my biggest gripes about North Brooklyn is all the new towers along the waterfront that effectively wall off the rest of the neighborhood from the water. I would hate to see this happen to any Boston area neighborhood.
 

stefal

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I think this would be a huge mistake. One of my biggest gripes about North Brooklyn is all the new towers along the waterfront that effectively wall off the rest of the neighborhood from the water. I would hate to see this happen to any Boston area neighborhood.
First Street, not Memorial Drive/Edwin Land... I don't think it would be walling the neighborhood off from the water. What's there now isn't the most active buildings/street front. I think there'd be some opportunity to reuse the buildings with good bones and put some residential mid and high-rises, and replace a few others.

The redevelopment along First Street and Cambridgeside could partially fund a revitalization of the park along Cambridge Parkway, which could use some TLC.
 

theSil

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I think this would be a huge mistake. One of my biggest gripes about North Brooklyn is all the new towers along the waterfront that effectively wall off the rest of the neighborhood from the water. I would hate to see this happen to any Boston area neighborhood.
Not to derail too much but… I live right next to those new towers in North Brooklyn, in a much shorter pre-war walk-up. Before the towers were built, almost all of their sites were industrial-zoned; decaying lots that literally walled off the neighborhood from the river. Now they’re residential blocks, with multiple parks providing public access to the East River in places where it hadn’t existed for a century.

Much more important than even water access though (which wouldn’t even really be a concern with a rezoned First Street as long as we have a 6 lane Edwin Land Blvd), those towers have created thousands of much needed residential units in some of the most coveted zip codes in a city with a massive housing crisis. As the fight over one proposal plays out right now, the options being considered are two towers with 1,200+ units, 25% of which will be affordable, plus a newly constructed lagoon providing access to the East River, or retaining the industrial zoning and building an Amazon fulfillment center…

On both the North Brooklyn waterfront and here on First Street, you have some of the most in-demand real estate on the planet. First Street should also look like it. And we certainly shouldn’t be chopping off floors from existing towers to appease NIMBYs.
 

bigpicture7

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...Much more important than even water access though (which wouldn’t even really be a concern with a rezoned First Street as long as we have a 6 lane Edwin Land Blvd), those towers have created thousands of much needed residential units in some of the most coveted zip codes in a city with a massive housing crisis. As the fight over one proposal plays out right now, the options being considered are two towers with 1,200+ units, 25% of which will be affordable, plus a newly constructed lagoon providing access to the East River, or retaining the industrial zoning and building an Amazon fulfillment center…
Agree with both the Sil and Stefal here. There are bigger issues closer to the river: 6-lane Land Blvd with minimal pedestrian crossings, walled-off buildings along Cambridge Pkway that are exclusionary, and a stretch of riverfront park that's in poor condition. One of the biggest offenders (bordering on ridiculous) IMO is this one. That latter example (owned by Harvard, I believe) has to be in the most valuable real estate category on the planet...why Harvard doesn't liquidate this and move whatever's in here somewhere else is beyond me.

All of this said, and back to Charlie's and bobthebuilder's comment, whatever taller structures go along 1st would have to be done thoughtfully, avoiding superblocks, and providing plenty of access toward the river...but that's doable. Whereas the existing conditions closer to the river right now are the real offenders.

EDIT: you all know, by the way, that every parcel between one canal park, through the cambridgeside superblock, through the charles park complex has been sold recently and/or proposed for redevelopment. In almost every case it's for biotech labs (I created a thread for 122-150 First St. based on its takeover by Alexandria). Cambridgeside is getting a stumpy tower on it. Haven't seen plans yet for the others. So Charlie's quest for 30-50 stories isn't happening on that side. But a higher spine will develop. I would love to see it punctuated by a couple of taller (~30+ story) residential buldings. At minimum, the city should carve out a corner of the massive 1st St. garage for redevelopment as residential.
 
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Rover

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Question: is the building actually being shortened, or does it just seem that way in the render that was posted?
 

Bananarama

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Question: is the building actually being shortened, or does it just seem that way in the render that was posted?
I believe it's losing 2 floors, going from 22 to 20. This was a change made way back in 2014 though, so not sure why it's coming up again.
 

Equilibria

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Question: is the building actually being shortened, or does it just seem that way in the render that was posted?
I see what looks like 2 floors of mechanicals in that render, so I suspect the actual top of the building will be roughly the same.
 

bobthebuilder

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First Street, not Memorial Drive/Edwin Land... I don't think it would be walling the neighborhood off from the water. What's there now isn't the most active buildings/street front. I think there'd be some opportunity to reuse the buildings with good bones and put some residential mid and high-rises, and replace a few others.

The redevelopment along First Street and Cambridgeside could partially fund a revitalization of the park along Cambridge Parkway, which could use some TLC.
Understood, but I took first street to mean both sides of first street, which puts you basically on the waterfront near the southern end of first. I think taller is fine. Getting rid of the super blocks is great, but 30-50 story buildings just doesn't fit in the area. A few 10-20 story buildings surrounded by 4-6 story buildings would be better in my opinion.

Not to derail too much but… I live right next to those new towers in North Brooklyn, in a much shorter pre-war walk-up. Before the towers were built, almost all of their sites were industrial-zoned; decaying lots that literally walled off the neighborhood from the river. Now they’re residential blocks, with multiple parks providing public access to the East River in places where it hadn’t existed for a century.
I was on Franklin St. up until 2019 (now in Clinton Hill), and totally agree that the residential development is better than what was there with the burned out industrial buildings. I also have spent a bunch of time on Historic Aerials and you can really see how most of North Brooklyn waterfront was all industrial & warehouses. The new residential buildings & the access they provide is definitely an improvement, I'm just of the opinion that buildings on the scale of 50 Greenpoint & the one across the intersection are of a more appropriate scale for the neighborhood than some of the towers going up.

I just found this render I haven't seen before. It's even worse than I could have imagined. It really loses its impact with the loss of the top floors too. Cutting a building for being "too tall" when IT WAS ALREADY THERE FOR 50 YEARS is just the type of bend-over attitude we don't need to see from local developers. It feels like a kick in the teeth to my childhood memories. (actually my 0-39 year old memories)

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To bring this back to the thread on hand, wasn't the height chop imposed on them? I feel like if Leggat-McCall could have kept the extra two floors they would have. Personally, I don't think the height chop makes much of a difference. I do appreciate that the finish materials at least make it stick out less.
 

DZH22

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....Personally, I don't think the height chop makes much of a difference....
Height chops always make a difference, because they are chopping the most visible part of the building! Also, in a city (Boston, not just Cambridge) that has ~125 buildings between 200'-299', cutting one that was (probably) just over 300' to the 280' range makes it go from stand-out to blending in with the pack. With all our plateau neighborhoods, those extra 2 floors absolutely make a difference.
 

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