Last week, Arrowstreet’s Jim Batchelor and Claes Andreasen were part of the ABX 2015 panel Infill Density: Case of Alewife Cambridge. The development around Alewife has taken care to prepare for future climate change while protecting nearby wetlands and greenspace. Arrowstreet has been involved in several projects in this neighborhood, which is one of the fastest evolving multi-family locations in the metro-Boston area. Together with developer Rich McKinnon, engineer David Biancavilla, and Catherine Woodbury from the City of Cambridge, we presented the practices used to create vibrant urban infill communities while alleviating the flood risk and traffic/transit challenges of this area.

Alewife borders the Fresh Pond Reservoir, which is a vital part of the water supply system for the City of Cambridge, and is also part of the Mystic River watershed, leaving it particularly vulnerable to flooding.   Due to proximity to major roadways and natural resources, traffic challenges and resiliency vulnerabilities were carefully considered. The tour highlighted some of the solutions developed for current projects and longer term transportation and resiliency measures.

The tour started with a walk through Discovery Park, which consists of office, laboratory, and residential buildings, as well as a carefully considered system of walking and biking trails. Former parking lots have been converted back to natural landscape; the trees from the parking islands still stand in orderly rows in what is now a meadow. The tour then headed to an area adjacent to the little river where a newly restored wetland and storm water mitigation system has been created. Paths and wooden walkways encourage the public to enjoy this wonderful amenity which is inhabited by reintroduced native plants and animals.

Next we stopped to talk about 160 CambridgePark Drive. The building features a water retention system for flood management which was achieved by lifting the ground floor up, and moving systems that would normally be kept in the basement above the floodplain. Similarly, other parts of the CambridgePark Drive development were designed to be sympathetic to the surrounding environment. A series of plazas anchor the entrances to the buildings and the garages were designed to recede, allowing the bike and pedestrian path movement to be at the forefront. Retail and community spaces and resident bicycle parking rooms activate the ground floors of all new buildings. A future pedestrian bridge connecting the residential area to the Quadrangle shopping plaza will allow people to access Fresh Pond on foot instead of by car.

While the entire area is prepared for future climate change, the design is appropriate for present day as well. The care developers, designers, and public officials have taken to plan for the future at Alewife is an example of good urban design and planning which will allow a vulnerable area like Alewife to flourish.

Topics: Resiliency, Events