Cambridge City
MA

City Manager's Agenda Item
CMA 2018 #117
ORDER ADOPTED
Jun 4, 2018 5:30 PM

A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a request for approval to submit the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

Information

Department:City Manager's Office, LADSponsors:
Category:Transmitting Communication

Document Comments

EXERCISED BY COUNCILLOR ZONDERVAN

Body

I am writing to request that you approve the submission of the attached Home Rule Petition that would authorize the City of Cambridge to include as part of the Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project (“Project”) the planned reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in the Inman Square area of the City (hereinafter, “Inman Square”) as well as a portion of the land that makes up Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza (“Vellucci Plaza”).

 

Specifically, relief is required from the Legislature in order to perform construction work on Vellucci Plaza, which is located immediately to the west of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street.  The January 21, 1980 City Council order authorizing the City to take the land making up Vellucci Plaza by way of eminent domain states that said land is to be used for “recreation open space purposes . . . .”  To make up for the loss of public recreational open space that will result from this construction work, nearby land on the opposite side of Hampshire Street owned by the City will be dedicated as public recreational open space as part of a “new” Vellucci Plaza and thus, there will not be a net loss of land dedicated for this purpose.

 

Pursuant to Article 97 of the Articles of Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Article 97”), land that is held and dedicated for public open space and recreational uses may only be re-used for another use with the consent of two thirds of both houses of the Legislature.

 

BACKGROUND

 

1.              Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci Community Plaza

 

As noted above, the City acquired the land that makes up Vellucci Plaza by way of an eminent domain taking on January 21, 1980.  The City Council order authorizing the taking states, in pertinent part:

 

[T]he City of Cambridge by its City Council does hereby take the land hereinafter described for recreation open space purposes and all easements, privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging as well as all trees and all structures thereon. . . .  The taking of fee simple title in land herein described is hereby authorized in accordance with General Laws, Chapter 40, Section 14 and Chapter 43, Section 30 as amended for the purpose of public recreation open space.

 

Vellucci Plaza is the primary public open space in Inman Square, with a total area of 6,480 square feet.  Vellucci Plaza is adjacent to residential properties, and consists primarily of hardscape elements.  The current design of Vellucci Plaza dates to 2006, when it was reconstructed as part of the larger Cambridge Street Improvements project.

 

As part of the community outreach for the Project, an online and email survey was conducted which included questions about the current design and use of Vellucci Plaza.  Public input on Vellucci Plaza was also solicited at public meetings.  There appears to be a clear consensus (350 of 441 survey responses received) that Vellucci Plaza should not “stay the way it is today.”  Survey respondents generally indicated that Vellucci Plaza was not inviting and did not work well, in large part due to its physical isolation and disconnection from the retail activity of Inman Square (Vellucci Plaza is located on the only corner of Inman Square that does not allow for direct pedestrian access to retail).

 

2.              Inman Square Intersection Safety Improvements Project and Existing Operational and Safety Issues

 

The City initiated the Project in October, 2016.  The purpose of the Project is to design and construct permanent physical improvements to Inman Square, which will address long-standing safety and operational issues.  The Project is an outgrowth of several other studies which have been made of Inman Square in recent years, including studies by the City, and by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in conjunction with regional pedestrian and bicycle advocacy groups.

 

The oblique intersection of Cambridge Street and Hampshire Street (which are two major arterial streets) contributes to operational and safety issues that have been exacerbated over the years as user volumes have increased.  Conflicts between modes of transportation are of particular concern, given that Inman Square is the location of some of the highest bicycle volumes in the City (approximately 600 cyclists traverse Inman Square during a typical weekday peak hour).  In addition, over 1,000 pedestrians cross the streets near Inman Square during peak hours.

 

The unusually large size of this intersection results in long signal cycle lengths, and lengthy delays for all users.  Crosswalks are extremely long, which increases the exposure of pedestrians and cyclists to vehicle conflicts.  The large number of potential turning movements resulting from Inman Square’s seven entry/exit points, as well as parking maneuvers, also present many opportunities for conflicts between users.

 

Inman Square has been identified as one of the top 200 high crash locations in the Commonwealth, with a crash rate roughly double the statewide average for a signalized intersection.  In addition, a high proportion of crashes in Inman Square involve pedestrians and cyclists, increasing the incidence of personal injury.  Analysis of the types of crashes in Inman Square indicate that the physical configuration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street is a significant contributing factor to incidents that occur there.

 

Because of the above factors, the City, beginning in 2016, implemented interim safety improvements in Inman Square, including prohibiting left turns and enhanced pavement markings for bike lanes, pending the completion of the current Project.

 

3.              Proposed Design and Impact on Vellucci Plaza

 

The proposed design for the reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street in Inman Square splits the single, unusually large, intersection into two smaller signalized intersections with more conventional geometry, and reallocates some of the existing vehicle space to pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities.  In addition, the proposed design requires that all vehicular traffic traveling through Inman Square turn and thus, increases safety and allows for better balance of the space between vehicular and non-vehicular uses.  The design reduces the size of the current Vellucci Plaza, but includes the creation of a “new” Vellucci Plaza on the opposite side of Hampshire Street, adjacent to existing retail uses. 

 

In terms of usable open space and placemaking opportunities specifically, the proposed design is responsive to community opinions that Inman Square’s primary open space should be located as close to retail activities as possible.  A desire was expressed for a tree-shaded flexible space that could accommodate seating, informal outdoor dining, and special events, and have a lively feel.  The existing Vellucci Plaza site, while somewhat compatible with these activities, was seen as disadvantaged by its location which requires pedestrians to cross one or more of Inman Square’s major streets in order to be accessed from retail activities. 

 

The construction work will result in public recreational open space existing on a portion of the current Vellucci Plaza on the west side of Hampshire Street, as well as new public recreational open space on the east side of Hampshire Street (i.e., the “new” Vellucci Plaza).  This new public recreational open space specifically responds to the community’s desire for an attractive, flexible, open space adjacent to Inman Square’s retail activity.  The total area of the two resulting portions of Vellucci Plaza will be 6,480 square feet, which, as noted above, is the total area of the existing Vellucci Plaza.  Thus, there will not be a net loss of recreational open space as a result of this construction work. 

 

The City has consulted with members of Mayor Vellucci’s family on the proposed design, and on May 7, 2018, the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission approved the proposed Plaza design.  

 

HOME RULE LEGISLATION

 

Vellucci Plaza is owned and held by the City for public recreational open uses, and is therefore protected under Article 97 from any change in use absent legislation authorizing such a change in use.  In order to proceed with the design of the Project and reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street and Vellucci Plaza as planned, I ask that the City Council vote in favor of filing the attached Home Rule Petition.

 

I have attached for your information a survey plan depicting the proposed reconfiguration of the intersection of Hampshire Street and Cambridge Street as well as Vellucci Plaza, and site renderings showing the existing and proposed site conditions.

Meeting History

May 21, 2018 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft

EXERCISED BY COUNCILLOR ZONDERVAN

RESULT:CHARTER RIGHTNext: 6/4/2018 5:30 PM
Jun 4, 2018 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft
RESULT:ORDER ADOPTED [6 TO 3]
YEAS:Dennis J. Carlone, Jan Devereux, Alanna Mallon, Marc C. McGovern, Sumbul Siddiqui, Quinton Zondervan
NAYS:Craig A. Kelley, E. Denise Simmons, Timothy J. Toomey