Sailwinds controversy erupts anew

Sailwinds Aerial

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
An aerial view of the Sailwinds property, once again in the news with a question: What’s going to happen next?

CAMBRIDGE — “Cambridge is seen as potential, always potential. Don’t squander this opportunity now,” pleaded Charley Tinley.

Walter Vickers told the City Council, “What will Cambridge be 50 years from now? You should never sell a piece of waterfront. You should start buying what’s left.”

One by one, residents came to the microphone at a special public hearing on Monday night at City Council chambers. The commissioners had invited the public to express their thoughts on the future of “the Cambridge Marine Terminal and Port Property,” an 11.8 acre property that encompasses what we call Sailwinds Park.

The commissioners are considering selling the property to developers if it is “no longer needed for public use.”

Wait … What?

What resulted was a public outcry that flooded the council microphone like the Choptank in a hurricane. Public opinion wants the idea of boutique hotels, condominiums, and any residential development washed away in that flood. More than two dozen men and women repeatedly stated that they don’t want the property sold to developers. Speakers emphasized using the site to celebrate the maritime heritage of Cambridge, to keep the gorgeous views, and to deliver a worthy legacy to the next generation.

Said Judge Steve Rideout about the project, ”Whose vision is this? If you throw away your cards now…” Vision should include the big picture, the whole of Cambridge, enhancing rather than competing with downtown.

Others spoke of a music venue, a museum presence, and criticized the small sliver of promenade mandated by the state as inaccessible and inadequate. Jerry Burrows of Governor’s Hall pointed out that the building at Governor’s Hall at Sailwinds is heavily booked this year, though the indecision about its future is curtailing next year’s bookings of festivals, weddings, and public functions. One speaker suggested that the maritime industry is aching for a shot at using a part of the deep water harbor that’s second only to Baltimore in the state. Most everyone agreed that Yacht Maintenance should be allowed to continue to lease because it enhances the marine aspect of Cambridge’s past and present. Over and over, alternatives other than condos and hotels were suggested. ”Keep the views, don’t overbuild,” was the theme with variations.

When the state transferred ownership of Sailwinds to the city, it imposed conditions; a 15-year deadline for economic development with job creation and the best interests of the public.

Now we are engaged in a public discourse that is going on throughout the country. Cities are cleaning up their polluted rivers, enlarging their minimal canals, restoring and removing along the riverside to create open space and kayaking and boating where they never existed. What will Cambridge do with its centuries of marine activity, with its gorgeous riverfront, with its real and significant history through time? If you have a vision, and you missed the hearing, you can send your opinions to the Mayor at Mayor@ChooseCambridge.com, or mailed to City Hall, 410 Academy St.

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