Commission agrees to consider Dollar General

Submitted photo/City of Cambridge
A Dollar General store is being considered for the property at the corner of High and Washington streets in Cambridge, most of which is now a vacant lot.

CAMBRIDGE — The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission agreed unanimously Oct. 29 to further consideration of a proposed Dollar General store. Plans call for the store to be built on the corner of Washington and High streets, on a lot that is currently occupied only by two small structures.
The idea was brought to the Commission for discussion only on Oct. 29. Final approval for the plan will have to come at a future meeting of the City Council, after the property in question is rezoned from residential to commercial.

Division Manager of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Cambridge Pat Escher said while she did not find evidence that the area had been originally zoned in error — one criterion for a change — the rezoning could take place on another basis. “What I do believe has happened in the area is that the city has undergone some increased awareness of urban renewal that needs to occur in the Pine Street neighborhood area,” which is adjacent to the property.
“There are now 35 properties under governmental control, either the city or Dorchster County,” she said, with another 21 under Habitat ownership, for a total of 56 properties that are going to be moving forward in some form to facilitate the urban renewal project in this area.
The city has also applied for a grant of $450,000 for the renewal and refurbishment of nearby Cornish Park. Ms. Escher said with the city, the grant and Habitat combined, there is a total of $1.2 million pledged to the revitalization of the neighborhood, with another $500,000 promised by the state.

Her report pointed out that because the area is dedicated as a gateway to the city, the project will require “superior architecture and superior design,” which she did not see in the original plans for the 9,000 square-foot store. She did, however, state that the project was basically compatible with city needs.
Attorney William (Sandy) W. McAllister Jr. represented Dollar General in the meeting, conducted mostly by phone conference. He said his work trying to attract developers to the city has been difficult.

“Attracting development to part of town is particularly challenging,” Mr. “So I don’t know what superior design means, I don’t know what relocating a store means,” McCallister said. “Reasonable minds can disagree, but that corner has been underwhelming most of my life.”
The store would be off Route 50, serving an older, pedestrian population, making it, “a flipping win,” he said. “It is important not to make this one bit harder than absolutely necessary to protect the citizens of Cambridge.”
“I must say, I’m slightly frustrated at the level of detail in order to conceptually encourage these people to spend their money,” Mr. McCallister.

He said a Dollar General at this location would have dozens of employees, would not “cannibalize” existing businesses in the area, and would allow residents of the neighborbood to avoid crossing Route 50.
“Tell me what you want me to tell the developers,” Mr. McCallister said.

“I could certainly support the zoning change,” Commission member Bill Craig said. “I think it would be good for the neighborhood…This fits right in with community requests.”
“I can go with the change, but I’m more concerned with the residents, how they feel about it,” Commission member Chantay Nelson said. Commission Chair Mary Losty said a community meeting could be scheduled.
“I appreciate everybody giving me that encouragement,” Mr. McCallister said.

Planning and Zoning Commission members are Jerry Burroughs, William Craig, Chantay Nelson, Eugene Lauer, Hubert Trego, George Breig and Mary Losty (Chair). The Commission meets the first Tuesday of every month, and on the third Tuesday for work sessions, if needed.