Mid Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District


REVIEW CRITERIA:

Neighborhood conservation districts are groups of buildings that are architecturally and historically distinctive. Each NCD is administered by its own Commission, which is empowered to approve any new construction, demolition, or alteration that is visible from a public way. The establishment of an NCD recognizes the particular design and architectural qualities of special neighborhoods in Cambridge and encourages their protection and maintenance for the benefit of the entire city.

The Mid Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District is bordered by Prospect Street to the east, Prescott Street to the west, Kirkland Street and the Somerville city line to the north, and Massachusetts Avenue to the south.

The authority of the City Council order establishing this neighborhood conservation district is structured as follows:

  1. The Commission may make non-binding recommendations for any of the following that are visible from a public way:
    1. New construction, including additions to existing structures, of more than 150 and less than 750 square feet of floor area;
    2. Alteration of the exterior appearance of a structure that requires a variance or special permit under the zoning ordinance then in effect;
    3. Alteration involving any of the following:
      1. removal or enclosure of any historic or original decorative element, such as a cornice, fascia, soffit, bay, porch, hood, cornerboard, window sash, or window or door casing;
      2. increase or diminishment of the size and/or change in the location of, windows or doors;
      3. increase or diminishment of the slope, pitch, or configuration of a roof or removal of historic or original roofing material.
  2. The Commission may make binding recommendations for that portion of any of the following that are visible from a public way:
    1. New construction, including additions to existing structures, involving any of the following:
      1. more than 750 square feet of floor area;
      2. more than 33% of the lot area not already occupied by structures;
      3. enlargement of the floor area of an existing structure by more than 33%;
    2. Demolition of 33% or more of the floor area of an existing structure not originally used to garage automobiles, including relocation of an existing structure onto or off of a site;
    3. Any alteration or construction of the following:
      1. structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, except those subject to Historical Commission review;
      2. publicly owned structures;
      3. structures containing or proposed to contain non-conforming uses.

Certificate of Non-Applicability   will be issued for work done in kind (work which matches existing conditions exactly), interior alterations, alterations not visible from any public way, and any other work which does not require review by the neighborhood conservation district commission (see regulations above). These certificates are generally issued by the Historical Commission staff on-the-spot.

Certificate of Appropriateness   will be issued for reviewable alterations which the neighborhood conservation district commission deems not incongruous to the character of the property in question.

Occasionally, a  Certificate of Hardship  will be issued for work which is not otherwise appropriate if the Commission determines that failure to approve an application would entail a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, and that the work would not be a significant detriment to the district.

One of these certificates is always necessary to obtain a building permit for work in a neighborhood conservation district.   All of the Commission's regulatory approvals have a life of six months. This means that the owner of the property has six months, from the date a certificate is issued, to obtain a building permit. Upon written request, the chair of the Commission may issue a six-month extension. If an extension is not issued, the owner must resubmit the Application for Certificate for the Commission's review.

In making its determinations, the Commission considers the impact of the proposal on the District as a whole and the potential adverse effects of the proposal on the surroundings. The objectives of the District are to 1) avoid excessive infill, 2) encourage new construction that complements existing buildings, 3) encourage the preservation of neighborhood buildings, 4) protect National Register properties, and 5) enhance the economic vitality of the neighborhood.


The CHC staff has recently printed an information guide about wood windows and important considerations regarding their repair or replacement. Follow this link to view the guide.

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