Expert Panel Launches “Envisioning Cambridge” at the Main Public Library

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On the eve of February 11, in the auditorium of the Cambridge Main Public Library, Envisioning Cambridge was formally launched – not with a bang but with a low sounding hmm and wow.

On stage, looking out on a partially filled auditorium, Tim Love - architect, urban designer and consulting group team leader – moderated 90-minutes as a panel of four experts laid out their respective roles in the Envisioning Cambridge planning process. The Cambridge City Council has given the “Envisioning” team three-years to move from a research and visioning phase to a planning phase. The central question before them is how to support development and growth in Cambridge while also focusing on how to pay for the social good of the city.

As Love succinctly stated: The project is a challenge but also exciting.

Three Years – Three Phases

The evening, helmed by Love, founding principle of Utile, kicked-off the three-year, three phase plan that will be a citywide effort to manage and shape Cambridge’s business and residential growth. The goal is to develop a plan that can support and sustain Cambridge’s economic and cultural diversity as well as pay for the social goods that contribute to Cambridge’s high quality of life.

Using city staff and community partners, Phase I, Research and Vision, will collate and review all current plans and data. A deep dive into Alewife will be used to inform development of the citywide plan.  Phase II, Scenarios, will launch in 2017. Using goals crafted from Phase I findings, the team will bring to the public their various scenarios for moving the plan forward. Public discourse and feedback will guide Phase III, Plan Development.

The panelists demonstrated their respective expertise in the areas under review: communication and community engagement; jobs and housing; transportation and sustainability.

Communication
Dan D’Oca, a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a founding partner and principle of Interboro Partners, will oversee what he described as “an ambitious and inclusive” communications and community engagement campaign. During the visioning phase of the project, D’Oca will use multiple tools, including an interactive rover scheduled to make more than 75 stops across the city, to build awareness, collect and document community input, as well as build consensus as the project moves to the planning phase in 2018.

Jobs and Housing
Overseeing jobs and housing will be Kevin Hively, from Ninigret Partners, brings to his role almost 20 years of corporate, government and non-profit experience. The challenge, says Hively, is to manage Cambridge’s current and future growth while preserving what has historically made Cambridge appealing and successful. With close to 110, 000 jobs available but a work force of 70,000 in Cambridge, creating balance between employment, housing and commuting will be critical to maintaining Cambridge’s economic and cultural diversity.

Transportation
While Cambridge has been a local leader in mixed-transit practices, the city still has major nodes of congestion, a maxed-out Red Line and road sharing challenges. Auditing existing plans and analyzing data, Lisa Jacobson, from Nelson/Nygaard, will bring her federal, state and local policy experience to oversee street design that incorporates all users.  Jacobson says hard tradeoffs will need to be made to devise a transportation system that supports the kind of multi-modal city Cambridge wants to be.

Sustainability
With the sewer overhaul and flood protection projects currently underway, Cambridge has already set ambitious targets for itself. Ariella Maron from Buro Happold, will bring her experience working as deputy director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to the challenges of climate action, sustainability and the city’s master plan of getting to net-zero.

To learn more about what’s next for “Envisioning Cambridge” and to sign up for March and April workshops, follow this link: http://bit.ly/1ULORQ0

View the Slideshow here.

Read the Meeting Summary here.