55 Wheeler Street Update
ABC IN OPPOSITION TO THE PROPOSED ALEWIFE MORATORIUM
A statement written by a committee of ABC members
A moratorium on all development at Alewife is a moratorium on affordable housing, a moratorium on transit-oriented development, and a moratorium on an ecologically responsible future. It is fundamentally out of step with Cambridge values. Proposals for housing moratoria are often discussed or adopted in surrounding suburban cities and towns, and for the same reasons forwarded in this letter. We now join Brookline, Newton, Marlborough, Pembroke, among many others, as part of the moratorium discussion. Cambridge has been a leader in progressive solutions to affordable housing, the environment, and transit, and we cannot set a precedent by turning our backs on that legacy.
Most importantly, this moratorium would have immediate and drastic impacts on affordable housing in Cambridge, aggravating issues of income inequality and social equity we pride ourselves in tackling as a community.
- Homeowners Rehab Inc.(HRI), a Cambridge non-profit affordable housing developer will provide 98 low to middle-income homes right on Concord Ave.
- 55 Wheeler Street could be impacted. This project will be the first private development to be built under our new 20% inclusionary zoning rules and will provide over 100 affordable homes. Not only would a moratorium prevent much-needed housing, but would also block many of the goals outlined by the moratorium petition.
-In total this moratorium could directly stop 500+ desperately needed units of Cambridge housing. This includes 100+ affordable units and a mix of 1,2,3 bedrooms with homeownership opportunities that will allow families and young people alike to remain in Cambridge.
Secondly, this moratorium will put a halt on ecologically friendly, transit-oriented development in Cambridge, and cause us to lose much-needed state funding to fix this congested part of our city.
-The Wheeler St development will provide a landing space for a much-needed potential bridge that will connect the quadrangle to Alewife T station. This bridge could complete and connect many biking and pedestrian routes in Cambridge. The developer has proposed infrastructure improvements, as well as greater connectivity through the creation of a completed street grid to alleviate congestion and traffic.
- Cambridge has an opportunity to secure state funding as well as priority funding through the MA Department of Housing & Community Development’s Housing Choices Initiative. This important funding could be used to help pay for a bridge connecting the quadrangle to the Alewife T station. The state will reject applications from cities and towns that have a moratorium on housing. We cannot miss this opportunity for increased mobility and connectivity in the Alewife area.
- Some have argued that this area is too congested for new development. However, it is estimated over 80% of the traffic in this area originates outside of Cambridge. This development is close to multimodal transport options, and could even lessen traffic as people move in closer to jobs and transit options. Residential development causes much less congestion that commercial development this partially replaces.
Lastly, this moratorium would fail to set the highest standard for climate preparedness in Cambridge development and miss opportunities to remediate severely polluted sites.
- The Wheeler development will provide significant flood mitigation and new open space for flood and stormwater runoff. Higher standards could even be proposed without scuttling the entire development
- HRI is keeping all units and building resources above the 2070 flood elevation, as recommended by the City of Cambridge’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.
- The area being developed is currently contaminated soils and unused pavement. Development work would require remediation, rather than these toxins remaining free to infiltrate the floodplain.
A moratorium on development in Alewife does nothing but prevent this community from confronting our housing, climate, and mobility challenges. We need investment in housing and mixed-use development to tear up pavement, insert green space, provide infrastructure, and build a resilient, diverse, and well-connected neighborhood. A moratorium is a step backward and does nothing but hurt our progress on some of the most important issues facing our city.