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10-person team to view projects completed by master developer finalists

SOMERVILLE – With four finalists chosen for master developer of the targeted redevelopment in Union Square, representatives from the Union Square Civic Advisory Committee, the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, the City and the Board of Aldermen will travel to four cities during the last week of May to see for themselves what each of the finalists has accomplished in building mixed-use developments in already dense urban environments.

From Monday, May 26, through Friday, May 30, a 10-person team including representatives of the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA), Union Square Civic Advisory Committee (CAC), the Board of Aldermen, staff from the City’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone will travel to Bethesda, MD, Chicago, Portland, OR, and San Jose.

These visits will allow the City’s team to view projects completed by the three of the four Union Square master developer finalists: Federal Realty Investment Trust’s Bethesda Row in Bethesda MD and Santana Row in San Jose (Federal Realty has partnered with National Development on its application); US2’s Lake Shore East and University Village in Chicago; and Gerding Edlen’s Brewery Blocks and South Waterfront District in Portland. A subsequent site visit will be scheduled to tour the Abbey Group’s projects in Greater Boston. 

The itinerary for these due diligence trips is as follows:

  • Tuesday, May 27:
    • Leave Boston at 8 a.m. to Washington, DC
    • Leave Washington, DC at 4:49  p.m. to Chicago 
  • Wednesday, May 28:
    • Leave Chicago at 5:25PM to Portland 
  • Thursday, May 29:
    • Leave Portland at 4:30 PM to San Jose 
  • Friday, May 30:
    • Leave San Francisco at 4:29PM to Boston


The three master developer finalists to be visited next week are each paying an equal amount to cover the travel and related expenses for the City’s team, roughly $20,000 in total, which will cover all 10 members of the City team’s due diligence visits for this portion of the work. These payments of travel expenses are regulated by the Massachusetts Ethics Commission’s regulations (930 CMR 5.08) allowing the payments for a legitimate public purpose, in this case business travel necessary to make informed purchasing decisions, selections and inspections. Each member of the City’s team will also file written disclosures to the Ethics Commission.

The members of the City’s team include Mayor Curtatone; Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston; Ward 5 Alderman and Chairman of the Housing and Community Development Committee Mark Niedergang; SRA Chairwoman Nancy Busnach; SRA member Michael Dwyer; CAC Chairman Wig Zamore; CAC member Michael Dacey from Fringe Union; OSPCD Executive Director Michael Glavin; City Director of Economic Development Ed O’Donnell; and Amanda Maher, Senior Economic Planner from OSPCD.

“Thanks to the diligence and hard work of the CAC and the SRA, we have four excellent finalists for this important task, but given the scope and importance of getting Union Square right and ensuring that we achieve the community’s goals, we must undertake even more intense due diligence before the SRA makes any decision on a master developer,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Each developer’s presentations aside, we have to see for ourselves what they have accomplished. Are their projects true, sustainable communities built into the fabric of an existing urban neighborhood? Are the streetscapes welcoming to pedestrians and bicyclists? Have they built in green space? Are they vibrant urban rooms and not ghost towns during the day? These are critical questions that cannot be answered by pictures seen during presentations, but seeing for ourselves what these developers have accomplished.”

“The redevelopment of targeted sites in Union Square and our vision for the future of Union Square is too important to rely solely on applications and presentations alone,” said Somerville Redevelopment Authority Chairwoman Nancy Busnach. “Visiting these projects ourselves and seeing first-hand the work done by the four finalists will allow us to make a fully informed decision about which, if any, of these developers can take on the task of designing and implementing the Union Square Revitalization Plan while retaining the character of the neighborhood and what we already love about it.”

At the end of April, the 20-member Union Square Civic Advisory Committee submitted a final report to the Somerville Redevelopment Authority that selected The Abbey Group, Federal Realty Investment Trust and National Development, Gerding Edlen and US2 as its four finalists for Union Square master developer out of the nine teams that submitted responses to the Redevelopment Authority’s Request for Qualifications. Members of the Civic Advisory Committee represent community members, local advocates and business owners with a range of skill sets and perspectives. The SRA voted in May to accept that report and the selection of those four finalists.

“The Civic Advisory Committee believes that Union Square’s Master Development team must work closely with the whole community to fully integrate the benefits of the new Green Line T station with our surrounding neighborhoods, existing small businesses and our vibrant entrepreneurship,” said Civic Advisory Committee Chairman Wig Zamore. “Along with some mixed income housing, and following the SomerVision comprehensive plan, the Square needs to add significant new non-retail daytime working population, through new upper story employment, to support the main street businesses that we have and to reduce Somerville’s citywide job shortage. Shifting our transportation to clean transit, walking and biking facilities and moving toward a better live-work balance is the best foundation for Somerville's long term sustainability.”

The master developer partner will work with the City, the Redevelopment Authority, current property owners and community members to design and implement the first phase of the Union Square Revitalization Plan including the redevelopment of seven key parcels identified in the plan. The master developer partner will be selected by the criteria listed in the RFQ with the aim of achieving the community’s goals set forth in SomerVision and preserving Union Square’s history and unique character.

The Civic Advisory Committee will advise the City on strategic planning decisions and development in the Union Square area over the next two years, building upon the state-approved urban renewal plan for the square, and work in concert with a forthcoming, in-depth roadway and infrastructure improvement plan being prepared by international consulting firm Parsons Brinkerhoff with community input. Once a master developer partner is selected, the committee will act as a sounding board for the Master Developer. The committee will help shape proposals that will then be brought forward for full public review, providing the community a dialogue with the developer to help determine a strategy that ensures the continuity of this unique and vibrant square, while making sure all the pieces come together in a way that creates community-driven, sustainable and strategic economic development.

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