Everyone knows that there is a lot of development going on in East Cambridge, but just how much is a lot? 80 acres is a lot. That’s my estimate of the area being built up recently, currently and imminently east of the tracks and north of Broadway. In fact, it is about 2% of the land area of Cambridge. 2% doesn’t sound like a lot does it? If It were the country we were talking about, it would take up all six New England states and most of West Virginia. That’s big. So big that it might even catch the attention of the public and the government might even have to get involved in the planning process to insure that some public benefit comes out of it. ( OK not the Bush administration except to maximize their policy of corporate socialism, but they’re short timers.)
The City of Cambridge, however, has largely failed to exert any influence to enhance livability and sustainability. The unwavering goal of the Healey administration has been to permit as many square feet of commercial and family unfriendly housing as possible. Increase the tax base with as little infrastructure investment as possible. Avoid children and any possible necessity of building more schools. Let the enrollment continue to fall, it’s good for the bottom line. At all cost avoid more parents of those kids who might start to feel connected to the city and start to think about their future here. As far as I can tell, they are hardly looking at issues such as the impact on our schools, traffic, air quality, much less anything as mushy as culture and quality of life.
To be fair to the developers, it’s not all rape and pillage. They are in business to make a profit, and if they all fail it would be a disaster. There are some good things coming out of it for us. There are and will be more new parks and public amenities. There is no reason not to develop, or redevelop, abandoned industrial and railroad land. Mr. Healey and I would agree that this land is a very valuable resource. Where we differ is in our vision of the City’s future and the idea that a civic institution such as the City of Cambridge should be run as a business.