New Project Rapped At Council Hearing
At a special hearing last night at city hall, a crowd of 150 North Cambridge residents criticized a proposed Porter Square shopping center that would include seven movie theaters and three restaurants.
City councilors present at the hearing were critical of the plan and passed orders recommending that the license commission not grant cinema and liquor licenses for the development.
Another order established a committee to meet with developer Peter Wasserman to present community complaints on the project.
The proposed shopping and entertainment center would occupy a refurbished and expanded Sears, Roebuck & Co. building on Massachusetts Avenue.
Area residents and councilors criticized Wasserman for failing to consult with community residents and the city in planning the project, which would also include a large home furnishings store and rental office space.
Residents speaking at the meeting said that the development would aggravate Porter Square's already congested traffic on Mass. Ave. and disturb the neighborhood environment by attracting patrons from outside of the community.
"This neighborhood will be devastated if this project is built as it is presently designed," said Cambridge Civic Association president Jeff Martinetti.
Council members said that the project would appeal to a regional and metropolitan patronage, changing the focus of Porter Square businesses away from a more neighborhood oriented appeal. According to one resident, the influx of visitors to the area would make Porter Square a "jungle of cars and people."
"This [project] isn't for the people of Somerville and Cambridge," said City Councilor Francis H. Duehay '55. "We don't want a Ghirardelli Square."
"[Wasserman] is creating a major regional or metropolitan shopping center," said Duehay.
At the hearing, councilor William H. Walsh recommended to Wasserman that he solicit more community input in the project and that he work with the committee to resolve conflicts with residents.
Walsh said that the council was willing to take more drastic action if Wasserman was not more cooperative with residents in the future.
"We're perfectly willing to of having battles if we have to," said Duehay.
After making a presentation of the project at the start of the hearing, Wasserman said little in response to complaints.