Alewife Neighbors, Inc.

Alewife Development Pause

Since mid-2016, the City has been focused on planning in the Alewife area through both the Envision Cambridge Alewife Working Group and the Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience (CCPR) Alewife Focus Group. The reports from both groups are expected soon, with the CCPR Alewife Plan draft recently released for public comments. The Alewife area was chosen as the pilot focus area for both groups because of the complexity of flooding, traffic and mobility issues, future health implications of an urban heat island hotspot, potential for development, and high concentration of vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, development in the area has continued through the process, potentially undermining the goals of the planning efforts. The most recent City Development Log of large projects shows over one Hancock Tower's worth of development has been approved (Buidling permit, Special Permit, or submitted As of Right plans) for the immediate Alewife area. Of that, 1.3 million square feet of development was newly approved since the two Alewife groups have been meeting. The Fresh Pond Residents Alliance and the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee have been approached by developers regarding more large projects on the near horizon.

Download and sign a letter to encourage the City Council to take actions to pause the development briefly until the two Alewife Plans are finalized and released, which should be in the coming months, in order for the permitting and review process to consider the results of these efforts.

Letter to City Council requesting temporary pause in Alewife development

The letter is also available as an online googledocs form, which is not through an online petition service, so it does not require signing in and you won't get spam from a service. You can also add comments, which are encouraged, even if short, to indicate it was signed by someone who understands and cares about the issues.

Online version of the letter

Feel free to advertise and post the letter as appropriate, and get signatures from other Cambridge residents. Please return signed copies by mail by to:
Mike Nakagawa
Fresh Pond Residents Alliance
51 Madison Ave m/s 301
Cambridge, MA 02140

Area Flooding

Excerpt from Notice from Cambridge Dept. of Public Works:

If you live or own property in Cambridge, especially in North Cambridge, Cambridge Highlands, Strawberry Hill, West Cambridge or Neighborhood 9 you should be aware of the revisions to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2010. Your property may be in the proposed new flood plain limits and you may be required to purchase flood insurance. FEMA has updated the flood maps for Cambridge and surrounding communities. This process revised the limits of the flood plain, which in Cambridge is principally located in the Alewife area. Approximately 160 additional buildings were newly included in the revised flood plain limits in Alewife.

Further information is available at the DPW site:

The Alewife area near the Arlington border will be most affected by the proposed changes, with many houses houses near Mass Ave. proposed to be in the high risk area where mortgage holders may be required to buy flood insurance. Estimated rates for high risk areas are $2500 per year for $250,000 building coverage including standard contents coverage and deductible. Lower risk areas can be covered to the same level for about $500 per year

The following map was developed by Alewife Neighbors to show the approximate boundaries of the flood risk areas by taking data from city maps and the proposed FEMA flood maps

The Dept. of Public Works is coordinating Cambridge's involvement in the FEMA process. You can reach Catherine Daly Woodbury at DPW directly at 617-349-4818, and information is available at the city's website:

One good resource about the National Flood Insurance Program is
It has lots of information and is fairly easy to read. One useful booklet is hard to find on the site, so we have copied it on this site: Answers to Questions About the NFIP

Click here -> Area Flooding <- for additional information

Concord-Alewife Rezoning


The area of Northwest Cambridge between the Alewife T Station and Fresh Pond, from Fresh Pond Mall to the Belmont border, is currently being rezoned. The goal of the City planning process was to convert the mostly light industrial uses to high-activity mixed uses, estimated to be about two John Hancock Towers' worth of new or converted development in the next two decades. 80% of the area being rezoned is in FEMA-designated Special or Moderate Flood Hazard Areas that connect the City's water supply (Fresh Pond and the treatment center) with overflowing raw sewage in a storm FEMA says should be of concern.

Additionally, the area roadways are beyond capacity, and additional traffic with destinations in the Alewife area would direct pass-through traffic onto residential roads that were not designed for heavy volume. The additional traffic through the neighborhoods, primarily west from Harvard and Porter Squares, would add pollution and traffic safety issues.

City planners consider flooding and traffic to be mostly regional issues, and have chosen not to require any mitigation for the worst of the problems. The City's Study Group focused on the area within its borders, and did not address the impacts to the rest of the city or surrounding areas.

DETAILED MAPS of worst impacts, such as West Cambridge to Porter Square.

The proposed zoning was approved, with amendments, at the June 26, 2006 City Council meeting. Councilor Decker was absent, Councilor Kelley opposed the zoning, and the remaining Councilors voted in favor.

Click here -> South Alewife <- for additional information

Public Comment Draft of W.R. Grace Public Involvement Plan

At the request of Alewife Neighbors, Inc. and the Alewife Study Group, W.R. Grace agreed to update the Public Involvement Plan (PIP) for the site. The process described in the plan provides opportunities for community members to comment on how the public health and safety will be protected if the soil - contaminated with asbestos and hydrocarbons - is disturbed, such as if the site is developed in the future.

It was important to update the PIP because it was originally developed over 10 years ago before the significant levels of asbestos were found in the soil. Furthermore, at that time, it was not anticipated that the soil would remain contaminated, needing a deed restriction to ensure public health and safety. Also, plans to ensure health and safety during significant site activities had not been developed during the cleanup under state watch, because no such activities are currently planned. This PIP would ensure public concerns are addressed if such plans are made for future activities.

The community can now rest, after a decade of neighborhood vigilance, knowing that protections are in place with explicit requirements for public involvement in future plans.

Click here -> Draft PIP <- to select a copy of the draft PIP that was approved.

Alewife Neighbors also has a copy of the notification mailing list (also available in the library and other public repositories for the site cleanup). If you haven't received mailings recently, it is probably because the contact information is out of date. E-mail to check if your contact info is up-to-date.

Click here -> W.R. Grace <- for additional information

State watch of Grace Site ends although asbestos contamination will remain in soil

State watch over the contamination at the W.R. Grace site has officially ended with the filing of deed restrictions to specify that only current uses of the property are allowed, and that if the soil will be disturbed, plans to control asbestos risk must be in place. The deed restriction specifies that the public will be involved in developing the plans. It was generally felt that leaving the soil undisturbed under current ground cover would present less risk than exposing contaminated soil in an effort to remove it. Periodic monitoring of the ground cover is require to ensure that it remains intact.

This deed restriction, called and Activity an Use Limitation (AUL), is filed with the Registry of Deeds, but can be changed in the future. The AUL allowed W.R. Grace to demonstrate that the asbestos in the soil will not pose any significant risks as long as the terms of the AUL are followed.

Any activities which could pose a significant risk would require W.R. Grace to file an Release Abatement Measure Plan with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, but would not require the state to be actively involved, as it had been for the past decade.

Click here -> WR Grace Project <- for documents under review.

For a copy of the transcript of the December 16, 2004 public meeting, visit the Alewife Study Group website, click here -> []

click here for more info

[mission statement]
[board members]
[02140 newsletter]
Key Projects:
 [W. R. Grace Site]
 [Area Flooding]

Alewife Neighbors, Inc. was formed in 1996 to serve the residents of North Cambridge by providing reliable information on quality-of-life issues as impacted by past and future development. The organization coordinates and participates in the monitoring and analysis of environmental, flooding, and traffic data collected with respect to development on parcels such as those at Russell Field, W.R. Grace properties, and the Alewife Reservation. ANI sponsors newsletters, neighborhood forums, and other public events. ANI is a tax exempt 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.


The "Alewife" area near Boston, Mass. surrounds the meeting point of Cambridge, Arlington and Belmont; the centerpoint is the State's Alewife Brook Reservation, a large but little known urban wild. More prominent is the Alewife MBTA subway station which abuts the reservation.
For more information on the Alewife area click here -> [Alewife background information]

For another source of Alewife news and information, see the website of
The Alewife Study Group at

site created: January 23, 2001
last update: November 12, 2009