Redevelopment in Union Square and the City’s plans to engage a Master Developer as a partner in redevelopment of properties identified in the 2012 Revitalization Plan has been on everyone’s lips. There’s so many pieces of information to draw together and so many conversations to consolidate we’re not ready yet with an article that synthesizes it all. For now, passing along the scattered pieces of the story and more to come next week.
Union Square Revitalization Plan
WBUR reports City of Somerville seeks Master Developer for revitalization plan for Union Square: “Now, with Union Square, the city is taking a much more active role. As part of the Davis redevelopment plan, the city took only two properties by eminent domain. For Union Square, it has designated seven plots of land for possible taking at an estimated cost of $26 million. Some acquisitions, like those where the T stop will eventually be built, have already been completed. Others that are still up in the air consist of mostly automotive shops and gas stations, but also J.T. Scott’s gymnasium….
Curtatone says it’s possible business owners, like Scott, will be allowed to redevelop their own land, but only if the plan meets the city’s criteria. Even then, he says it’s unlikely because the city prefers to have one developer for all Union Square properties taken by eminent domain.
“We cannot afford to have certain blocks developed to their highest potential and others not,” he said. “One, we will not create enough value for any potential partner, and two, this city misses out on an opportunity to build the neighborhood it hopes and dreams to create.”
Mayor issues open letter on plans for Master Developer.
RFQ issued by the City of Somerville for Master Developer
Mayor and City staff host on-line chat to discuss Union Square redevelopment, master developer.: “After weighing both approaches (individual versus a master developer), we are confident that the potential pitfalls are greater if we do not use a master developer and rather allow speculative individual developments that won’t create the cohesive development that fits in with the neighborhood, won’t provide for the needed infrastructure improvements and won’t achieve the community’s goals in SomerVision.”
Mayor interviewed on Union Square development in Boston Globe: “From the bridge, where the new Union Square station is expected to be completed in 2017, Curtatone pointed to a gritty metal scrapyard and a used plumbing and heating supply shop next to a set of commuter rail tracks. “This will change,” said Curtatone, looking over the 3.8-acre site, where up to 600,000 square feet of new development is expected – including buildings as high as 10 stories – with the subway stop as its hub. “It’s the transformation that we all dreamed about.” In economic terms, Somerville has been able to quantify the benefits. By 2030, the city projects that 17,300 new jobs and 3,600 residential units will be created around Union Square and at the Washington Street station nearby, which is also expected to open in 2017.”
Boston Globe Op-Ed by Paul Marrow of Commonwealth Magazine: “The old brand of urban renewal was a top-down force that focused on demolishing and building structures. And it left behind some of Somerville’s worst spaces.As Somerville prepares for the first phase of the long-awaited Green Line extension, it’s looking to turn that old urban renewal model on its head. The city is embracing the legal powers of urban renewal to overhaul its Union Square neighborhood, but in a way that’s deeply grounded in the existing community. In the process, Somerville is demonstrating what modern city-building looks like: locally focused, reliant on public transit, and grounded in entrepreneurial culture.”
Parsons Brinkerhoff leading planning and design of roadway and infrastructure improvements in Union Square. Report from the first community meeting November 18.