SOMERVILLE –Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that he had received a letter from officials at international furniture retailer IKEA informing him that they have decided not to proceed with construction at Assembly Square. Mayor Curtatone indicated that IKEA would have little difficulty finding a buyer for their 12-acre site, which is adjacent to the MBTA’s Assembly Square Orange Line station and Federal Realty’s 45 -acre Assembly Row development, both of which are already under construction.
“We anticipate that there will be considerable interest in this prime parcel, which will now be developed in accordance with the same transit-oriented, mixed-use, smart-growth principles that characterize Federal Realty’s approach at Assembly Row and – more important – that reflect our community’s vision of the way the entire district should be developed. We’re sorry to lose IKEA as a partner, and they’ve been very responsible landholders, but frankly, I think we’re going to end up with something even better.”
“It is regretful that IKEA will not be able to take advantage of this great location. They have been a great partner,” said Don Briggs, President Federal Realty Boston. “Assembly Row is moving forward and in fact, has gained significant momentum over the past year – a T Stop is under construction, residential and retail building foundations are forming and preparation for the waterfront park redevelopment has already begun”.
The July 19th letter from IKEA, signed by the company’s U.S. real estate manager, Doug Greenholz, explained that IKEA had concluded “that the immediate needs of our Boston-area customers are being served effectively by the existing Stoughton store and that a second Boston-area location (including one in Somerville) is not needed for the foreseeable future.” The letter continued, “We cannot commit to a timeframe for building a Somerville store”, adding that IKEA “will begin considering other non-IKEA options for the land, with the intent of selling it.”
“IKEA operates on a global scale and a business plan may look very different in Stockholm than it does in the United States,” said Curtatone. “A modified big-box IKEA store would have been successful here, but the local factors all continue to work in favor of the mixed-use, multimodal model that is already taking shape at Assembly Square. Retailers, restaurant and entertainment businesses, office and residential developers who understand the benefits of that model are going to be very interested in this site. That’s why the City will exercise its authority under the Assembly Square district zoning to ensure that any buyer of the IKEA site will develop uses even more consistent with our zoning regulations than the IKEA big box would have been.”
IKEA had originally purchased riverfront property on the Assembly Square site in 1999. In 2009, the company completed a land swap with Federal Realty that gave IKEA a parcel behind the Somerville Home Depot. The City issued special permits for construction on the new site in 200_ and renewed them in 2011; they were scheduled to expire next month.
“IKEA has been an honorable and cooperative partner to the City over the years, and I’m very grateful for that,” said Curtatone. “Even though they are not going ahead with their plans, they’ve already played a very constructive role in transforming Assembly Square for the better – and I expect that role to continue as they look for the right type of buyer for their land.”