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 and other considerations 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 nearly 1,000 households that would like to live there.
Q: How many of the people on the Walden Square wait list are Cambridge residents?
A: As of June 21, 2023, there were 1,128 households on the waitlist and approximately one in five (20%) have a Cambridge address.
Q: What is the proposed unit mix for this project?
A: The current design envisions two buildings housing 95 apartments in total. One six-story building on the northeast side of the property, known as Building A, will feature 60 apartments – 18 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units, 18 three-bedroom units and four four-bedroom units. A second, seven-story building near Lincoln Way, known as a Building B, will house 35 units – 15 one-bedroom units,15 two-bedroom units, and five three-bedroom units. All apartments will be 100 percent affordable.
Q: What is the size of the proposed buildings?
A: Building A is proposed at 87,327 square feet. Building B is proposed at 62,738 square feet.
Q: How many units in each building will be handicapped accessible?
A: A minimum of 5 percent of units will be accessible to households with wheelchairs and 2 percent will be set aside for households with sensory disabilities
Q: Are there "green" environmentally sustainable aspects to these buildings?
A: The buildings will be all-electric and will be designed to meet Passive Housing Institute US (PHIUS) standards, which includes super-insulation, energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures, low flow water fixtures, and superior air sealing. Small solar arrays will be installed on the roofs of both buildings to generate a portion of their electric supply. Other environmental features include a net increase of tree plantings on site, enhanced lighting upgrades, and covered bicycle storage scattered through the site. Newly developed pedestrian plazas, patios, and bench seating will foster an inviting public realm for residents. Taken together, additional plantings and open space enhancements further enhance a more environmentally sensible development for Walden Square Apartments.
Q: How will the amenities available to residents change as a result of this project?
A: Amenities will be improved sitewide to benefit the entire Walden Square community. The community room will be remodeled and expanded to allow for additional gathering space for residents. The existing computer lab will also be updated with new finishes. The existing management office will be relocated so that the current space can be converted into a fitness center. The basketball court will be resurfaced, as will the two existing playgrounds, which will be outfitted with age-specific equipment. The private-use day care playground in the courtyard between Buildings A and B will be relocated to create a net increase in playground open areas that are accessible to residents and community members. In addition, the two proposed new buildings will feature smaller flex space rooms that can be used for a wide variety of community purposes.These spaces will be open to all Walden Square residents.
Q: What will happen to the Yerxa Underpass and the mature trees along Walden Square Road?
A: Nothing. The connection to the Yerxa Underpass will be maintained and the mature trees from Raymond Street to the underpass will be preserved.
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: Site illustrations are available in the Galley section of this web site and will be shown during community and city meetings.
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 21 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: 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 22 years.
Q: What has the company done to improve the quality of life for Walden Square residents in the past 18 months?
A: WinnResidential is committed to providing our residents the highest quality property management services and housing. Since March 2021, the company has:
Renovated 71 apartments.
Converted eight (8) apartments to be make them fully ADA compliant.
Installed a new security camera system.
Installed new lighting along Walden Square Road.
Installed new flooring and re-painted all the common areas of the property's low-rise buildings.
Hired a Residential Services Coordinator to connects residents to important social services they may not be aware of, including rental assistance, elder services, career services, and other family benefits.
Hired a new property Manager to strengthen customer service and retrained staff.
Stepped up efforts to reduce and/or eliminate pest issues, working more closely with residents and with the city’s Inspectional Services Department.
Thoroughly inspected all apartments to develop a comprehensive catalogue of potential repairs and renovations.
Welcomed a new Resident Advisory Committee to strengthen resident feedback on operations.
Issuing a new resident parking policy and new stickers to qualified households and towing away prohibited and abandoned vehicles as needed.
Distributed resident communications in Arabic, Haitian Creole, Spanish and English, with 72 hours notice whenever possible.
Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui noted many of these initiatives in am April 13, 2023 letter to the City Council. You can view the Mayor's letter in the Gallery section of this web site.