Cam­bridge Gate­way pro­ject trans­form­ing city’s en­trance

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com

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.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

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.

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