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Decision Time A-Comin' for Cambridge's Central Square

With the possible exception of what to call Area IV, 'tis nothing more contentious in the People's Republic right now than how to build out—or, rather, up—Central Square. The issue at its most basic is how densely to build; and that especially includes how high. On one side are those who've often been dismissed as mere NIMBY-ists, the classic Not In My Backyard types adverse to most never development, whatever it is, but denser development in particular; and on the other side are those who've embraced the newer term YIMBY, as in Yes In My Backyard, the kind of folk who want to see more multi-family housing and entrepreneurial-focused office space. Central Square has become the ground zero of their debate.

The time for turning that debate into concrete changes is fast approaching. Per Marc Levy in Cambridge Day, the City Council and Mayor Henrietta Davis have begun to steer the decision-making process largely to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority. As the mayor delicately put it this week: "With so much at stake, we should look for something that perhaps doesn't aim for one side or the other. Are you on this side or that side? I don't think that's very productive." (It's also quite noisy.)

The authority would serve as a clearing-house for both sides of the debate to dump their concerns and projections and hopes for Central Square (and by Central Square we mean the area around it as well—see the above map). "The real issue is there is just not enough people here," as Central Square Business District president Robin Lapidus put it to Levy. Higher multi-family housing (up to 140 feet in some cases) would be the solution. As would, apparently, wholesale streetscape changes, like putting things up on vacant lots along Bishop Allen Drive and this:

[Mayor Davis] expressed horror at the Central Square Library as well. After more than an hour of presentation and discussion, when [an architect] suggested amid a general giddiness that descended on the room that the library had to go, Davis' response was "Yes, yes, yes." For now, the focus appears to be shifting that decision-making process to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, with final approvals, of course, still with the City Council. Why the authority now? It's work in Kendall Square is largely over, and, like we said, there is no more contentious an argument in Cambridge right now than what to do with Central Square. Bring it.
· Revamp of Central Square Could Fall to Cambridge Redevelopment Authority [Day]
· Curbed Boston Awards '12: Meatiest Debate [Curbed Boston]
· Area IV-get It! Cantabrigians Want Neighborhood Name-Change [Curbed Boston]
· Scenes From a Cambridge Development Fight [Curbed Boston]

Kendall Square

Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA