The City of Somerville recently data on the City’s Key Systems Indicators. Most interesting for Union Square Main Streets was the change in assessed values for commercial properties in the neighborhood.
The City explains, “This map shows the average growth in the assessed value for each parcel in the City. Dark red parcels tend to either be newly developed commercial properties, or parcels where the owners made significant improvements. White parcels indicate negative or zero growth (or in a few cases, missing data). “
While the increase in assessed values is nearly universal across the city, there’s some areas showing a higher than average increase in value. What story is this map telling about changes in Union Square?
The black arrow highlighting this dark parcel shows the property were Bronwyn restaurant is today. The increased assessed value represents the significant renovations by new business as they invested in the building.
Pointed out here, Wagner Jewelers is a long standing Union Square business that expanded this past year. As part of the expansion, the retailer maintains their entrance and added an accessible entrance on Bow Street. A significant renovation is clear to see here.
It’s not as clear why this parcel has increased in assessed value. It’s the playground atop Prospect Hill. It’s city-owned property so assessing for tax purposes wouldn’t properly apply here so this may be an error. But why a different rate of change for the playground and not for the rest of the park with Prospect Hill Tower? The playground was renovated a few years ago. While the increase in values are for rate of change between 2013 and 2014 its important to note that properties are up for a more detailed reassessment every five years. Those much appreciated improvements to the park would be reflected in that increase in value.
There’s a couple properties where it’s more challenging to see why a property might have increased in value.
This arrow shows the property with the Citizens Bank and Reliable Market. Both of those businesses did some very modest improvements this past year. They were also added to the Union Square Revitalization Plan.
The properties at 181 and 197 Washington Street, marked here, increased in value. The buildings on the sites were approved for demolition. Applications to build on the properties were approved by the City but are currently under appeal from abutters.
The future Green Line station undoubtedly is having an impact on nearby properties. This one on the end of Allen Street saw a big jump in value, despite being mostly a vacant lot with a low commercial building on it. The property is in the Union Square CCD-55 — so while that adds value isn’t not as significant as the CCD-70 immediately beside it facing Prospect Street. It was however one of the properties included in the D-2 block as one to be acquired under the Union Square Revitalization Plan.
The changes on this block, from Dunkin Donuts to Mama Gina’s, tell a more complicated story. The darkest band on the right is where Ebu Sushi’s improvements inside and out added some value, moving from an assessed value in 2012 of $533,800 to $885,300 in 2014.
However, the quality of the structures on these parcels are such that the typical downtown model is reversed – the land value here is greater than the value of the buildings. This block, referred to as D-6, is part of the Union Square Revitalization Plan, and the coming of the Green Line and the opportunity for redevelopment are changing the profile here.
Several of these properties have changed hands this past year. For example, Mike’s Auto at 1 Union Square (also listed as 298 Somerville Ave) was sold for $2 million. Back in 2012 it was assessed for $774,700. After the sale the property was assessed this year at $1 million. 9 Union Square, where the Chinese Take Out is, has had no investment in the building itself, the value still grew from $1.125M in 2012 to $1.575 in 2014 as the property sold and the land increased in value.