West Cambridge / Alewife Area Infill & Small Developments

BostonUrbEx

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This thread is for a rather specific part of Cambridge, lying west of the Alewife Brook Pkwy.

Current construction includes 1) the condos at the former 'Faces', 2) Fitchburg Cutoff Bike Path and faux wetland creation, 3) I forget the name, but there appears to be an apartment building going in place of a parking lot on Cambridge Park Drive.

There's quite a bit of activity for this transit/office park fusion area. The advances to the cycling path network in the area are amazing. I was last there for biking 2 years ago when there was only the Minuteman and Somerville Community Path. Now there's the Fitchburg Cutoff, Alewife Brook Greenway, and a series of paths around Acorn Park.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Since there are tons of posts within other threads let's just put new ones here.
 

pixelsand8

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I live in this area and can confirm that the trail network out here is amazing. Numerous boardwalks going over the wetlands makes for some terrific natural scenery for such a convenient and otherwise urban area. Last summer they finished a boardwalk near the cemetery along Rte 16 near Broadway. Saw today they'd completed a cement walkway along the small pond just north of Alewife. Will have to upload pics later.
 

George_Apley

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Does anyone know why the developers of the Faces lot built ON TOP of Route 2? They couldn't push it back 30-50 feet from the highway? Not only are those units facing multiple hours of crawling traffic a day, the ability of the state to FIX the end of the Route 2 freeway is severely limited by the condos sitting practically on top of it.
 

George_Apley

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No, It's right next to it. Like 15 feet back.
 

Arlington

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Does anyone know why the developers of the Faces lot built ON TOP of Route 2? They couldn't push it back 30-50 feet from the highway? Not only are those units facing multiple hours of crawling traffic a day, the ability of the state to FIX the end of the Route 2 freeway is severely limited by the condos sitting practically on top of it.
It sure would be nice if a Alewife T & bus-only lane could be created starting further out (at the Lake Street lane drop).

The problem with the Faces parcel has always been the wetlands/flooding issue. The farther back from Rt 2 you go, the more wetland/floodplain issues you have. This is also why Acorn Park is being massed up where it is (and why its access road seems so long)--Arthur D Little's buildings were built before suburban driveways and impermeable surfaces raised the flood plain. If you look closely at the new Acorn Park buildings you'll see they're about 6 feet above the road level back there.

The apartments are snuggled up against Rt 2 because it is basically the buildable "high spot"
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Abutting 2 would be *tolerable* for the new building if the Faces curb cut was eliminated. But it doesn't look like that'll be the case. There is literally no way to do ANYTHING to 2 EB if that cut stays. I can't believe MassHighway didn't step in and make its case.
 

Digital_Islandboy

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It sure would be nice if a Alewife T & bus-only lane could be created starting further out (at the Lake Street lane drop).

The problem with the Faces parcel has always been the wetlands/flooding issue. The farther back from Rt 2 you go, the more wetland/floodplain issues you have. This is also why Acorn Park is being massed up where it is (and why its access road seems so long)--Arthur D Little's buildings were built before suburban driveways and impermeable surfaces raised the flood plain. If you look closely at the new Acorn Park buildings you'll see they're about 6 feet above the road level back there.

The apartments are snuggled up against Rt 2 because it is basically the buildable "high spot"
Route 2 was not supposed to be where it is. It was supposed to use the ROW of the Fitchburg Line, and cut though Porter and Union Squares. It's present location was an afterthought. Cambridge does things like that to keep the state from expanding anything more in the area.

In terms of the flooding, the city of Cambridge is working on a huge Combine Sewer Separation project. They built a HUGE box drain below Wheeler Street (behind the Fresh Pond CVS) that goes beneath the Commuter Rail and into Alewife Brook wetlands. There connecting the Huron Avenue area into it now. On top of that, the city say they're soon going do all the streets leading into it. I went to some of the meetings. One of the project aims will be to dig up the playing field under Tobin Elementary School and place a huge stormdrain catchment area that can hold storm drain runoff from the area until the end of rain and then discharge later after Mystic River's flood levels go down. So hopefully flooding should be a thing of the past based on how much money Cambridge is sinking into that project.
 

Digital_Islandboy

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This might help. Took these shots this afternoon.


Hanover at Cambridge Park 5/5

Hanover at Cambridge Park 5/5

The following has replaced Faces.

Residence at Alewife 5/5 Fronting route 2


Residence at Alewife 5/5 Rearview

And across the tracks on Fawcett Street is this project.


Residence at Fresh Pond 5/5
I liked the blue color on those buildings along Fawcett Street. It is different from the normal bland cream color condos they're putting up in this area. I didn't get close enough to see that it was only plastic Tyvek wrap. There's a lot more people going back in that area than there used to. It's nice to be rid of the industrial feel around there and actually have some people moving around in those areas at night. I see a gym has opened up somewhere back there and all now. :)

Did you noticed if there's any new pedestrian ways to cut across the tracks in that neighborhood yet to North Cambridge side?
 
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Digital_Islandboy

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This thread is for a rather specific part of Cambridge, lying west of the Alewife Brook Pkwy.

Current construction includes 1) the condos at the former 'Faces', 2) Fitchburg Cutoff Bike Path and faux wetland creation, 3) I forget the name, but there appears to be an apartment building going in place of a parking lot on Cambridge Park Drive.

There's quite a bit of activity for this transit/office park fusion area. The advances to the cycling path network in the area are amazing. I was last there for biking 2 years ago when there was only the Minuteman and Somerville Community Path. Now there's the Fitchburg Cutoff, Alewife Brook Greenway, and a series of paths around Acorn Park.
The city has preliminary plans for a bike path somewhere near BrickYard next to the Three tall towers on Rindge Ave. to place some kind of pedestrian bridge there over the tracks that would tie into Danahy Park/ Watertown Branch Railroad trail if and whenever that gets done.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The city has preliminary plans for a bike path somewhere near BrickYard next to the Three tall towers on Rindge Ave. to place some kind of pedestrian bridge there over the tracks that would tie into Danahy Park/ Watertown Branch Railroad trail if and whenever that gets done.
Which would be awesome because there's huge number of small kids who all day long cross down the embankment and through the speeding car kill zone that is the north side of the Mall parking lot to get between the DCR fields and Danehy Park. Couldn't have designed a ped-unfriendlier asphalt moonscape if they tried. Rindge and Danehy are two places that NEED to be joined at the hip. The reservoir too if the rail trail goes all the way from the parkway crosswalk to Danehy, or if they ever graft real ramps down the overpass embankment onto Terminal Rd.
 

Arlington

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In terms of the flooding, the city of Cambridge is working on a huge Combine Sewer Separation project. They built a HUGE box drain below Wheeler Street (behind the Fresh Pond CVS) that goes beneath the Commuter Rail and into Alewife Brook wetlands. There connecting the Huron Avenue area into it now. On top of that, the city say they're soon going do all the streets leading into it. I went to some of the meetings. One of the project aims will be to dig up the playing field under Tobin Elementary School and place a huge stormdrain catchment area that can hold storm drain runoff from the area until the end of rain and then discharge later after Mystic River's flood levels go down. So hopefully flooding should be a thing of the past based on how much money Cambridge is sinking into that project.
Sadly, the CSO solution and storm-water-holding basins really only solve the "once-a-year" sewer problems.

The issue in the Alewife-Acorn park area (as far as buildability go) is the "Hundred Year" floods--which I think were in 2000 and 2004 and so more like every 5 years-- are caused by water coming "down the hill" from all over Belmont and Arlington
 

Charlie_mta

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Which would be awesome because there's huge number of small kids who all day long cross down the embankment and through the speeding car kill zone that is the north side of the Mall parking lot to get between the DCR fields and Danehy Park. Couldn't have designed a ped-unfriendlier asphalt moonscape if they tried. Rindge and Danehy are two places that NEED to be joined at the hip. The reservoir too if the rail trail goes all the way from the parkway crosswalk to Danehy, or if they ever graft real ramps down the overpass embankment onto Terminal Rd.
I grew up in the housing project east of the three towers. A pedestrian bridge to link that housing project (Jefferson Park) and the three towers with Danehy Park should be a high priority.
 

kjdonovan

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F-Line -- are these plans written down anywhere? I couldn't find it on the city website.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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F-Line -- are these plans written down anywhere? I couldn't find it on the city website.
This was the first I've heard of any formulated plan until Digital_Islandboy mentioned it a few posts up. It's been desired for ages and talked about at planning meetings for years because people will cross over between Rindge/Jefferson Park and Danehy any way they can...through the asphalt killzone, through a hole in the fence and down the RR tracks, etc. You only have to take one look at the path worn into the overpass hillside and the shopping cart propped up at the bottom of the wall for "stairs" to know that the will of the people has been expressing itself pretty loudly here for decades. But no, nobody to my knowledge has done a PowerPoint presentation or drawn officially-sanctioned pretty pictures until now.


These are the general things needed in the area:
-- Aforementioned footbridge between Danehy and Jefferson Park/DCR fields over the Fitchburg line. For all the obvious reasons, but especially for the children in the area who very heavily use both parks. And also ped access from Danehy and Huron Village to the 83 and Alewife that doesn't involve getting blasted by sand and debris from the parkway sidewalk.

-- A real bike connector between Fresh Pond and Alewife to keep riders off the parkway and off the awful parkway sidewalks. Striping a lane on Terminal Rd. and building ramps up the embankment cuts a large amount of the distance off. Tougher part will be gaining an easement behind the plaza to connect Wheeler St. with Terminal and complete that connection from the Concord Ave. bike path + crosswalk. They have talked about the easement in meetings before, but so far the plaza owners haven't been willing to dance. The new condo developments on Wheeler and Fawcett might put some new pressure to get this done, since they're kind of cut off from the rest of the world.

-- H2O Branch rail trail. This one's pretty academic. Pretty much what you see on the (very nicely!) landscaped trail behind Watertown Mall to Arlington St., extended to the existing Fresh Pond path system. The Arlington-Grove St. segment is funded...now they just have to go fishing for Grove-Fresh Pond money. I can't stress enough how awesome that link will be...North Cambridge to Arsenal/H2O Sq. is almost impossible to reach in any halfway-direct way on bus, bike, or foot...this becomes a bona fide 'bipedal' transit line unto itself when it's built. Hell, people already walk the ROW from Watertown in droves to jog around the reservoir. Abandonment filing on the ROW finally went through late-2012 and the T is going to rip out the Fitchburg Line switch + storage siding when the Fitchburg Line signal replacement project reaches Cambridge. All the state has to do is buy the H2O Branch ROW from Pan Am, which will probably happen in the next year or so in a package sale because Pan Am also has a fresh abandonment in Lowell to sell that would allow the Bruce Freeman Trail to finally extend to downtown, and the T wants to outright own the tracks for the Fitchburg-Wachusett extension before that opens.

-- Sherman St. connecting path to the footbridge. Not a big deal since the Fitchburg Line is 4-track width here and they can simply pick either side of the ROW, throw up a chain link fence, pave, and go. Too many people from the Rindge side already use this as a de facto shortcut to Danehy that they need to fence it and make it "official" or somebody's gonna lose a leg to a train.



Those are the essentials establishing basic connectivity. The individual "nice to haves" would then be:

-- Trailing the H2O Branch behind New St. and the Mall so the Children's Village school and the new condos at the end of New have a less-dangerous walk to/from Danehy and Fresh Pond than the lousy sidewalks on New. Nobody's really talked about this short stretch of ROW because the rest of the trail ends on the other side of Fresh Pond and simply uses the existing striped bike path to get over here, so chances are when they link the rest this part's still going to sit dead and unused till somebody agitates to figure out a use.

-- Further extension of the Sherman St. connector between Sherman and the Pemberton-Walden Sq. underpass so those apt. blocks at Walden Sq., the schools on either side, and those fields/tennis courts are linked with the rest of the system. Same deal as the Sherman-Danehy leg...just chain-link fence and no-frills pave on one of the empty Fitchburg track berths. Cheapie.

-- Further extension from the Pemberton underpass all the way to Porter using the recently-restored historic Walden St. cow tunnel (hidden at far left of the Google shot) and ramping up to the driveway/commuter rail entrance on the Mass Ave. SB side of the street. Boy oh boy would it be nice to have all 3 of the outer Red Line stations connected to the same path system.

-- Extension of the Fitchburg Cutoff path from Brighton St. to Belmont Ctr. This one I think actually has some juice if the NIMBY's in town haven't gotten "concerned" yet, and likewise would just involve a no-frills chain-link fence and pave job one of the two empty outer track berths. People already trespass in droves here, especially the Belmont High School kids who scale the embankment for shortcuts. And it's going to become an issue for Alewife/Acorn Park that they're walled off from Belmont more seriously than they are Cambridge or Arlington.
 

BostonUrbEx

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Wow, that tunnel thing was from a cow path?! That's pretty cool.

I took a train to Belmont and back to kill some time a couple weeks ago and saw that -- I couldn't figure out what the heck it was! That'd be wicked awesome to use for a path, though.


The Fitchburg Cutoff Extension to Belmont Center and Belmont Station certainly is incredibly easy. I'm hoping it's official and starting ASAP -- it couldn't be any more simple.
 

jass

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The finally finished the path? It only took them a decade!
 

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