Residents clash with development proposal for Cross St.
By Izak Shapiro
The scene in the senior room at 165 Broadway could have been from a movie: the team from Criterion Developers, dressed in business suits, sat in a tight row along the right side of the white-walled room. Somerville residents filled the rest of the space, some dressed going to or from work, others coming from home, but everyone meant business.
The meeting’s purpose was to discuss the proposal for a new five story, 120,000 square foot building to house 120 rental apartment units at the intersection of Cross Street and Mystic Avenue, adjacent to highway 93. Also part of the developer’s proposal is a plan to build a new park in place of the old Harris Playground.
“Changes like this don’t happen without community involvement,” said Criterion team leader Jack Englert.
The Criterion landscape leader made sure to emphasize they would not simply build the park, but would actively maintain the park; trees and other vegetation would populate the park as much as possible in order to ensure healthy air quality.
“They moved the old park because of health concerns,” said Somerville resident Ann Marie DiBella, who lives next to the proposed building site. “Now they’re going to build a new one? This isn’t going to happen.”
Perhaps even more pressing than the environmental issues to the Somerville residents were their concerns about the amount of cars the new residents would put onto the already crowded neighborhood streets. One resident, Dennis Sullivan, noted parking was already a disaster, so where would another potential 120 families park their cars?
The Criterion team set aside 140-150 parking spaces. Englert claims at Criterion’s Medford site they did a study of their residents and concluded each residency averages 1.1 cars, thus allowing the Somerville site to fit the new additions to the neighborhood.
Nick Stiles, a Somerville policeman for over thirty years who has lived in the area his whole life, cited the average American family as having two cars, not to mention that Somerville, unlike Medford, has been one of the most densely populated areas in the history of the United States.
So the senior room at 165 Broadway went from a meeting to a corporate versus citizen battlefield. One man stood up and told the Criterion team to “go back to the drawing board.” One woman looked at them and said, “You people come here for the money.”
“We need to spend more time in the neighborhood, we have a lot of work to do,” said Englert after the meeting. “I do believe in this design, but seeing it for the first time is always hard.”
The next step in the logistical process is that it has to be affirmed by the Planned Unit Development standards.