Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the City of Cambridge Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay?
A: The goal of the City’s “100% Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay” is to help affordable housing developers, using public funds, create new affordable units more quickly, more cost effectively, and in areas where there are fewer affordable housing options for residents. Affordable housing developers often cannot compete with market-rate developers who can afford to pay more for land and buildings. There are also areas of the city where current zoning makes the creation of new affordable housing infeasible. Allowing affordable housing providers to build more densely than market-rate developers will create opportunities in these neighborhoods. Affordable housing developers have also faced long and costly permitting challenges delaying their ability to complete new affordable units. Streamlining the approval process for new 100%-affordable housing will help reduce development costs and allow affordable housing providers to create new affordable units more quickly while using public funding more effectively. More information on the City’s initiative can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Housing/affordablehousingoverlay.
Q: What does the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay ordinance say?
A: The ordinance approved by the Cambridge City Council in October 2020 can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/Housing/Overlay/zngamend_aho_designguidelines_20200728v2.pdf.
Q: How is the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay being implemented in Cambridge?
A: Projects being pursued under the initiative are described here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/housing/housingdevelopment/aho.
Q: What are design guidelines for developments proposed under the Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay?
A: The design guidelines established by the City can be found here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/Housing/Overlay/zngamend_aho_designguidelines_20200728v2.pdf.
Q: How does the Walden Square development qualify under the new ordinance?
A: The ordinance allows incremental increases in density, limited increases in height, and relaxation of certain other zoning limitations for residential developments in which all units are made permanently affordable to households earning up to 100% of Area Median Income. The proposed development meets all the standards set forth in the ordinance.
Q: Where will the proposed project be built?
A: It is being built on the site of the Walden Square Apartments, a successful affordable housing complex in North Cambridge that is owned and operated by WinnCompanies.
Q: Why is this project being proposed?
A: This project is being proposed to increase the affordable housing available to individuals and families who want to live in Cambridge. Walden Square Apartments currently has a waiting list of more than 900 households that would like to live there.
Q: How many of the 974 people on the Walden Square wait list are Cambridge residents?
A: As of March 23, there are 178 applicants with a Cambridge address.
Q: What is the proposed unit mix for this project?
A: The current design proposes two buildings housing 96 apartments, a decrease from the single 103-unit building proposed in 2021. One building, known as Building A, will house 54 apartments – six one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units, 30 three-bedroom units and six four-bedroom units. The second building, known as a Building B, will house 42 units – six one-bedroom units, 30 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units. The unit count and mix are subject to change during the design review process for the project.
Q: Are there green aspects to this building?
A: The project will be designed, constructed, and operated in a sustainable manner. The buildings will be all-electric and will be designed to meet Passive Housing Institute US (PHIUS) standards, including super-insulation, energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures, low flow water fixtures, and superior air sealing. In addition, a small solar panel array is planned for the roof of Building A to generate a portion of its own electric supply.
Q: Will you be building a model of the project so that we can see the scale and how close it will be to current buildings?
A: We will provide updated site illustrations to demonstrate how the proposed new and current buildings relate to each other and how far the new buildings are from the existing ones.
Q: What days of the week and times of the day will construction work occur?
A: Construction times will follow what a construction management plan that will be developed prior to the start of work and will not exceed what is allowed under city ordinance.
Q: What steps will be taken to prevent negative impacts from construction activity, including the on-site storage of construction materials, does not interfere with daily life for Walden Square residents or create safety issues for pedestrians and motorists in and around the community?
A: The general contractor selected for the work will be required to create and submit a comprehensive construction logistics plan designed to minimize impacts to both the site and the surrounding area. We will work closely with the contractor to ensure that safe routes are created around the construction project and to ensure the impact on residents, neighbors and others is minimized during construction periods.
Q: What are the parking requirements for the new building under the Affordable Housing Overlay?
A: The Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay does not require the construction of off-street parking. The current proposal calls for approximately 39 new parking spaces to be added to Walden Square when this project is complete.
Q: How many parking spaces are there at Walden Square now and where exactly the 39 new spaces will be located?
A: There are 190 parking spaces at Walden Square. The new spaces will be scattered across the site, including new spaces along Walden Square Rd, adjacent to the basketball court, and underneath the proposed Building B.
Q: Can you make parking spaces accessible to residents only?
A: Yes. We are in the process of issuing new resident parking stickers to residents. Vehicles found to be violating the new parking policy will be towed.
Q: How will the proposal impact traffic volume and patterns?
A: Based on the market for low- to moderate-income households seeking to live in Cambridge, the proximity of mass transit options and enforcement of the new parking policy, the new apartments are expected to have a minimal impact to overall traffic volume and patterns relative to what is currently in place with Walden Square.
Q: Where will the new playground be located? Is the daycare’s tot lot being moved?
A: The overall site plan is being refined to better detail the new playground locations. The daycare’s playground would be moved north from its current location. You can view the latest site plan in the Gallery section of this website.
Q: How many trees must be removed? How many will be planted?
A: The exact number of trees to be removed is not yet set in stone. Although this project is exempt from the city’s tree ordinance, it is our intention to replace every caliper inch of trees removed. Trees that need to be removed will be replaced in accordance with guidelines set forth by the City of Cambridge.
Q: How will fire trucks access the new south building?
A: Fire trucks will access Building B from an access road running south of the existing nine-story building.
Q: How will this construction affect the electrical grid in the neighborhood?
A: We are working with the City of Cambridge, local utility companies, and our engineers to ensure the new buildings integrate with existing infrastructure. If it is determined that improvements are needed, the work will be incorporated into the construction plan.
Q: What benefits will this development bring to the larger neighborhood?
A: The proposed project will increase the inclusivity of the neighborhood and will add much-needed affordable housing for families in the community. In addition, the neighborhood will benefit from proposed site improvements that create stronger, safer pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between Raymond Street, the Yerxa Underpass, Bolton Street and Sherman Street.
Q: Who will manage the new building?
A: Once completed, the building will be managed by WinnResidential, the property management arm of WinnCompanies. WinnResidential has managed the Walden Square property for 21 years.
Q: How are your responding to maintenance complaints from current Walden Square residents?
A: WinnResidential is committed to providing our residents the highest quality property management services and housing. We are:
Stepping up efforts to reduce and eliminate pest issues, working more closely with residents and with the city’s Inspectional Services Department.
Thoroughly inspecting all apartments to develop a comprehensive catalogue of potential repairs and renovations.
Making sure hot water systems are working correctly for all buildings.
Reviewing the community’s current security plan to plan improvements where needed, including the installation of new security cameras and exterior lighting.
Retraining current staff on customer service expectations and hiring new staff, including a new Assistant Property Manager and a new residents Services Coordinator – both of whom are fluent in Arabic.
Issuing a new resident parking policy and new stickers to qualified households and towing away prohibited and abandoned vehicles as needed.
Meeting regularly with residents to keep them updated on these and other activities, listen to their feedback, and remind them that the Resident Hotline is available 24/7.
Distributing resident communications in Arabic, Haitian Creole, Spanish and English, 72 hours prior to any activity whenever possible.
Providing weekly updates to the City of Cambridge on property management activities.
WinnResidential takes all resident concerns seriously and responds quickly to reported maintenance issues in order of priority. All Walden Square residents receive anonymous satisfaction surveys at least once a year to rate various aspects of the property on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best possible score.
In the most recent surveys conducted during 2021, respondents gave maintenance of the property an average score of 4.67 out of 5. In 2020, the average maintenance score was 4.44 out of 5. In 2019, the average maintenance score was 4.55. Overall, residents have scored WinnResidential's management of the property in the low to mid-4s during the last three years, In addition, WinnCompanies recently invested in new roofs and HVAC systems to address prior infrastructure issues.
Q: What is the public process for this development?
A: Four community meetings have been held as part of this process so far, in addition to a meeting with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and tours of the development site for residents and neighbors. The Development Team is taking into consideration all feedback it has received and is revising the proposal to address ideas and issues, whenever possible. We expect to file with the Cambridge Planning Board later this spring, with public meetings expected to be scheduled later this summer.
Q: Where can I find the presentations that have been made to the community so far?
A: The presentations made to the community and to city agencies can be found at: https://www.waldensquare2.com/about-3. In some cases, video replays of the community meetings are also available.