Cambridge Gateway project transforming city’s entrance
CAMBRIDGE — Sailwinds Park Inc. President Frank Narr presented an update on the Cambridge gateway project at a Dorchester Chamber of Commerce business lunch Wednesday, Oct. 12.
In recent weeks, swift and dramatic changes have been visible on the corner of U.S. Route 50 and Maryland Avenue as the old Burger King and service station buildings were torn down, the asphalt surface removed, and fresh sod laid in its place.
“It dramatically changed the complexion of when you come into town,” said Narr. “I think as people come across, they will see that there is something changing here. There is a change, an elevation of expectations.”
Irrigation was also installed in the space, and while some questioned the necessity of this, Narr reasoned that the area should be thought of as our front lawn and maintained as such.
This work is considered phase one of the project, and this state of “green space” is where Narr said he expects the project to remain for the next two or three years.
The site of the gateway project, which is a partnership between Sailwinds Park Inc. and the City of Cambridge, begins with the Dorchester County Visitor Center at the foot of the Frederick C. Malkus Bridge and runs eastbound along Route 50 to the intersection with Maryland Avenue.
As to the purpose of the project, Narr said, “We want a welcoming entrance to our community, a softer, more gentle entrance, a sense of arrival when you get here.”
Phase two will begin with an extensive design and planning process, starting with the selection of a designer, according to Narr.
He said that three concept plans will be presented to the city council for consideration and the plans then modified based on the council’s input. Those modified plans will then be brought to the community for their input, and modified again before being presented to the council for approval.
“We would love to be able to incorporate some of the materials of our local manufacturers, specifically GKD and Cambridge International,” Narr said. “We’ve spoken with them to talk about how we could utilize some of their architectural mesh in the designs that we might come up with in the future here. They have come on board willingly and in partnership, which is amazing as they are competitors.”
Negotiations with Clear Channel concerning the billboard on the property are ongoing, Narr said, and the parties involved are working on trying to find an amicable solution for the focal point that does not quite fit with the spirit of the project at hand.
The cost for the remainder of the project is yet unknown as a design has not been established, but $1.4 million in grant funding has been spent thus far on acquisition, demolition and improvements.
Movement began on the project in 2013 when Sailwinds Park Inc. applied for and received grant funding for the acquisition of the properties in question. Narr said it was a perfect storm that year as the three properties considered were all for sale simultaneously.
Sailwinds Park Inc. took the lead and received $750,000 in grants to begin the property purchase, and the City of Cambridge came in later with a third round of grant funding to secure the rest. By 2015, the city had control of the old Burger King and service station properties, and negotiations for the restaurant property were dropped.
The Gateway Planning Committee was then established and includes members of the Sailwinds Park Inc. Board of Directors and city representatives who will see the project along in the coming years.
Sailwinds Park Inc. is a community-based, nonprofit economic development and revitalization organization established in 1992, and is not to be confused with the separate group that operates Governors Hall.
Fresh grass now covers the lot for the old Burger King in Cambridge along U.S. Route 50 after the city of Cambridge tore down the vacant building during the summer.