Broadway is a major thoroughfare that serves as the gateway to Somerville as one comes from Charlestown and the City of Boston. The story of commerce along this street begins around the time that the horse drawn trolley was introduced in the 1850s. Long before this--in fact going back as far as the 1600s-- Broadway was an important highway. Indeed, it figured as part of the infamous “Midnight Ride” that Paul Revere took on horseback to reach Lexington and Concord on April 18, 1775. And it’s along this famous route that the neighborhoods of East Somerville and Winter Hill were established.
Today, East Somerville is the most densely populated and ethnically diverse neighborhood in the City. The community stretches along Broadway from McGrath Highway on the west to the Boston/Charlestown City line at Sullivan Square on the east. The light industrial area immediately adjacent to Sullivan Square holds potential for redevelopment given its proximity to the MBTA Orange Line Station and could act as a gateway linking East Somerville with Assembly Square and Charlestown. The remainder of Broadway in East Somerville is a shallow commercial corridor generally no more than a lot deep, and home to a wide variety of restaurants, stores and services that represent the Irish, Italian, Central American and Brazilian character of the resident population.
Winter Hill, while settled later than East Somerville, has the makings of a new commercial square around the intersections of Broadway and Temple, and Broadway and School. The former Star Market site is one of the largest development parcels outside of Assembly Square and could anchor significant mixed use redevelopment for the neighborhood.
2008 Zoning Study
The City of Somerville began a community-led Zoning Study for the Broadway Corridor from Dartmouth Street in the Winter Hill Neighborhood to the City border with Charlestown/Boston at Sullivan Square with a public meeting on November 10, 2008 held at the Elizabeth Peabody House. Based on comments from that meeting the City worked with Aldermen Roche and Pero to develop a focus group of resident and businesses owners to help craft a vision for the corridor and draft a proposed Zoning Map Amendment to support that vision. The focus group met four times over the winter and early spring of 2009. On March 24, 2009 the City convened a second public meeting to present the recommendations of the focus group.
The focus group has developed two alternatives for the Broadway corridor. Both proposals would see the creation of a Transit Oriented Development District with a maximum height of 70 feet (TOD-70) for the area nearest to Sullivan Square and extending up Broadway to Austin Street. The TOD -70 District would allow for more substantial mixed use buildings with pedestrian oriented ground floor uses and a minimum 15% inclusionary affordable housing requirement. The TOD-70 District would require all parking for new developments to be within the structure and require a ten percent of the lot to be set aside for usable public open space. The height of the district adds an additional benefit of mitigating noise from I-93. Both proposals are also calling for the creation of a Commercial Corridor District along the remainder of Broadway to Winter Hill. The Commercial Corridor District allows for a 5-foot increase in building height for a total of 55 feet and an increase in maximum floor area ratio (FAR) from 2 to 3, to incentivize mixed use development. In the CCD, it would be possible to make a payment to a municipal parking fund in lieu of providing required parking on-site, relieving property owners of the most common impediment to building the allowable height and floor area. One alternative would map a Transit Oriented District with a maximum height of 55 feet (TOD-55) around the intersections of Broadway and Temple Street and Broadway and School Street. The major difference between TOD-55 and CCD is that TOD would require parking for new developments to provide on-site and in structures. The change in grade at Winter Hill along Broadway makes underground parking an easier option that in other neighborhoods. Additionally, the TOD-55 would impose a minimum lot size of 50,000 s.f., encouraging parcel consolidation, whereas the CCD has no minimum lot size.