UNION SQUARE ADVISORY COMMITTEE SELECTED
Committee of residents, community leaders and business owners advise City on strategic planning decisions and development in Union Square.
SOMERVILLE – A group of 19 community members, local advocates and business owners has been selected for The Union Square Community Advisory Committee that will advise the City on strategic planning decisions and development in the Union Square area over the next two years, and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced the selections for the committee today.
The committee will tackle a variety of topics affecting Union Square including economic development, land use, housing diversity, transportation, open space, quality of life, and preservation of the square’s character. The committee’s work will build upon the state-approved urban renewal plan for the square, realize transit-oriented and community development opportunities brought by the coming Green Line Extension scheduled to open in 2017 in Union 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.
The committee will also help the City evaluate applicants who respond to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a master developer partner that will work with the City, the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, current property owners and community members to design and implement the redevelopment of the seven development blocks identified in the Union Square Revitalization 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. Responses to the RFQ are due Jan. 31, 2014.
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.
“This committee appropriately reflects Union Square’s identity, because the work charged to the committee focuses on enhancing the identity of the square: preserving what we love now about it and shaping its identity for the future,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “This is only the first of the public processes around the redevelopment of specific blocks of Union Square. The community has set its high standards and goals for Union Square—they are written down in SomerVision. We will hold the master development to those standards. This committee will help us select the right developer with the right vision and shape each proposal that is submitted to the City. Any proposals must also go before the Planning Board in a public hearing, providing further public input, and there will be ample opportunity for the public to stay involved in the process from start to finish via design and community meetings. How Union Square evolves while retaining its unique character and identity will be beholden to the people of Somerville and their vision for the square.”
The City of Somerville publicized in October that applications were being accepted for the Union Square Community Advisory Committee. Members of the committee were selected to provide a breadth of experience and representation of those who live, work and play in Union Square. To maintain independence and objectivity, none of the committee members are currently employed by the City outside of a representative of the Somerville Arts Council, who will be acting on behalf of the arts community. Nor are any members currently property owners within the seven development blocks. The members of the Committee consist of long-time residents, representatives from the local business community, local advocates, and members of the arts, creative economy and the maker movement, who bring a range of relevant expertise and knowledge to the committee.
Somerville resident and community advocate Wig Zamore will serve as chairman of the committee. An MIT-trained urban development expert, Zamore is a founding and active member of both the Mystic View Task Force and Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.
“The arrival of the Green Line in Union Square brings with it the opportunity to capitalize on the full potential of Somerville’s historic crossroads of commerce, while protecting the aspects of Union Square we cherish as a community,” said Zamore. “Union Square needs an upper-story base of office, research and developments jobs that would support the lower-story job base of main street retail, balanced with additional housing—including affordable housing—open space, and room for the creative arts and culture that already calls the square home. Balancing these needs as we create a sustainable, mixed-use and transit-oriented neighborhood is a task that this community will take on to ensure Union Square becomes a true local success story.”
The additional 18 committee members were selected to provide a range of skill sets and perspectives. The full list of members is below.
“We are already seeing development pressure in Union Square and this committee is an important step in ensuring that coming development meets community goals,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston. “We all worked so hard to make the Green Line Extension a reality, but the next phase of our work is only just beginning. I am committed to working with this committee to both preserve what we all love about Union Square today and to ensure that the Union Square of tomorrow brings this community the jobs, housing diversity and commercial tax revenues that we want while bringing us more of the vibrant, walkable streetscapes that make Somerville not just a city but our home.”
“I am heartened that this community is determined to shape the future of this square carefully and with public input rather than to just leave it up to random developers, ” said Ward 3 Alderman Bob McWatters. “The depth of skill on this committee combined with the balance between residents, business owners and community activists should ensure that the master plans are reviewed from every angle. This is a rare opportunity for our city to make a significant, positive impact on our future. I look forward to being a part of this process and to hearing the proposals of this committee.”
In addition to Committee chairman Wig Zamore, the Union Square Community Advisory Committee members include:
- Joe Beckmann, co-founder of Progressive Democrats of Somerville and OutSomerville. Beckmann is a former Somerville Public Schools consultant.
- Susan Callahan, Middlesex County Second Assistant Register of Deeds. Callahan is a former Somerville City Solicitor.
- Robyn Champion, long-time Prospect Hill resident. Champion is a former professional transportation consultant and deputy director of Executive and Continuing Professional Education at Harvard School of Public Health.
- Mike Dacey, founder of Repeat Press. Dacey is a representative of Fringe Union.
- Erik Fellinger, Union Square Main Streets President of Board of Directors. Fellinger is a transportation planner.
- Mimi Graney, Union Square Main Streets’ executive director.
- Gregory Jenkins, the Somerville Arts Council’s executive director.
- Angelina Jockovich, co-owner of Casa B in Union Square. Jockovich is an architect by trade specializing in construction management, architectural design and sustainable design and is a native of Colombia.
- Ken Kelly, co-owner of The Independent and Precinct in Union Square. Kelly serves on the Union Square Main Streets Board of Directors, is a member of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce and is an advocate on Union Square issues.
- Shaina Korman-Houston, the Somerville Community Corporation’s project manager.
- Karen Mancini, Former Assistant Purchasing Director for City of Somerville.
- Pat McCormick, is senior consultant for Public Consulting Group, former president of the Somerville Homeless Coalition board, and former CIO for the City of Somerville (2000-2004).
- Erik Neu, resident, parent, and Union Square entrepreneur. Neu is a graduate of Somerville Academy for Innovative Leadership (SAIL) and is an independent management consultant.
- Philip Parsons, principal at Parsons Consulting Group, formerly of Sasaki Associates, a leading international planning and design firm. Parsons specialties include comprehensive planning, urban design and planning, landscape architecture and LEED AP.
- Molly Rubenstein, Artisan’s Asylum’s executive director.
- Kat Rutkin, Somerville Local First’s executive director.
- Rebecca Schrumm, Somerville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Vice Chairman and Green Committee Chairman. Schrumm is a financial advisor.
- Gordon Wong, resident. Wong is a graduate of the Somerville Academy for Innovative Leadership (SAIL), a data management specialist and consulting director at Cervello, a technology consulting company.
The first committee meeting will be announced shortly. Meetings of the Union Square Community Advisory Committee are open to the public.