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Aug 16, 2012

MAYOR, OSPCD SUBMIT URBAN REVITALIZATION PLAN FOR UNION SQUARE TO SRA, BOA

Plan Includes Several Property Acquisition Phases, Provides Framework for Development Surrounding GLX and Next Steps for Zoning

SOMERVILLE - Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that, following a vote by the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA) at its August 15th meeting, he will submit a draft of an Urban Revitalization Plan ("The Plan") to the Board of Aldermen this evening during their Special Meeting, scheduled for 7:00 p.m.  The Plan, covering 117 acres in the Union Square area and including seven development blocks slated for acquisition by the City over a period of several years, would implement the development vision set out through the re-zoning that was approved by the BOA in 2009.  Phase 1 of The Plan, including acquisition of properties east of Prospect Street between Somerville Avenue and the existing rail bed- "North Prospect Block" - will begin by early 2013. 

The Block was recently the subject of a Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Somerville, MassDOT and the MBTA, under which a portion of the land purchased by the City, or by the SRA acting as an agent of the City, would be transferred via easement to the MBTA in conjunction with the state's commitment to construct a Green Line station on the site.  Under the terms of the agreement, the state committed to begin construction on-site in the spring of 2014, with completion of "an operational transit station by late 2016-early 2017."  The remainder of the Block would be made available for private development into a mixed-use transit-oriented development that would complement the new station.  Projected costs to purchase and prepare the North Prospect Block total approximately $6 million, with an additional $2 million for an engineering study for infrastructure upgrades in the area.

"This is the culmination of several years of dedication and hard work, and with the recent agreement with the State and MBTA, this Plan presents the most economically sound plan for our City's sustainable future.  Moreover, with the commitment of a Green Line station in the heart of the square by 2017, we've secured the support of State and federal agencies along with local stakeholders for a plan that creates thousands of new jobs, tax revenue and opportunities for growth in a variety of areas," said Mayor Curtatone.  "We are taking our City's destiny into our own hands, and we are confident that, over the next 20 years, this plan will have proven to be the best possible groundwork for the creation of another vibrant civic hub in the metro region."

"Union Square is one of the most unique and diverse neighborhoods, not just in Somerville but in the entire region, and while this plan will bring in new business, housing and development across the board, it also includes opportunities for our existing local businesses, artists and community groups to create a niche in a modern and increasingly more vibrant neighborhood.  It's an opportunity to make Union Square, and the entire City, a true destination, especially with the commitment of a Green Line stop in the midst of it all," said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston.

"This area has tremendous potential, some as yet untapped, and I think this plan presents the opportunity to build on some of our local gems, as well as expand our residential and commercial tax base," said Ward 3 Alderman Tom Taylor.  "I'm eager to undergo the public process over the next few weeks, and work with local property owners to shape our final recommendation to the State."

The Revitalization Plan will be presented to the BOA on Thursday following a vote by the SRA declaring the development district "decadent," a technical finding under state law that a certain portion of structures in the Plan area are out of repair, deteriorated, obsolete or otherwise such that it is improbable that the area will be redeveloped without the intervention of the City.

While most of the district supported by The Plan will be considered for private redevelopment, the development block that currently houses the City's Public Safety Building and several private businesses between Washington and Merriam Streets and Somerville Avenue is slated for the construction of a state-of-the-art, $43 million library building, thanks to possible grant funding by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  The "Civic Block," as it is referred to in The Plan, would also be considered for the future site of a City Hall or other municipal uses.

Earlier this year, the City finalized its 20-year Comprehensive Plan, "SomerVision," which estimated that Union Square, including the Boynton Yards site, would support an additional 4,300 jobs and at least 850 new units of housing with strategic investment in transit and infrastructure, such as those laid out in the Revitalization Plan. 

"The plan for Union Square is part of our larger goal for smart-growth and transit-oriented development citywide, and it will provide a solid basis on which we hope to continue to grow and expand business opportunities, transit and open space," said Mayor Curtatone.

Following a public hearing and public process by the BOA, a final plan will be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which will have 30 days to render a decision on The Plan.

 Click here to view the Union Sqaure Revitilization Plan.