Will Somerville’s Union Square become the next Kendall? Developers think so

By Tim Logan
Read the Boston Globe. 

Another developer is betting that Union Square may become Somerville’s version of Kendall Square.

A New York real estate investment firm on Tuesday will disclose plans for two new buildings of office and lab space along the Green Line extension near Union Square, the second big project in that neighborhood that may get underway this year.

DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners recently filed plans for a complex of nearly a half-million square feet in what’s known as Boynton Yards, a warren of scrapyards and industrial properties just south of Union Square and near where one of the new Green Line stations will be built. Later phases of the 3.4 acre project could include as many as 400 apartments and more office space.

The proposal is separate from a much larger redevelopment of the Union Square area that the City of Somerville is overseeing, a project that’s being led by Chicago-based Magellan Development Group and Mesirow Financial, a partnership known as US2.

Like other developers descending on this underbuilt urban area, DLJ is banking on corporate tenants that want access to the talented workforce in Cambridge and Somerville but can’t find — or afford — space in burgeoning Kendall Square, about a mile away.

“We’re seeing a lot of demand right now,” said John Fenton, DLJ’s development manager. “There are lots of companies that started in Cambridge, got bigger, and now need more space than they can find in Kendall Square. This is going to serve those tenants.”

DLJ is meeting with neighbors and working through city permitting and plans to break ground this fall, Fenton said. The company is confident enough in the market that it will start construction even if no tenants are signed up, he said.

US2 also plans a fall groundbreaking on the first phase of its $1 billion Union Square project, which has been in the works for several years and won final city approvals last fall. That portion includes a 175,000-square-foot office-and-lab building and a 25-story, 400-unit apartment tower along Prospect Avenue, just north of a future Green Line station.

The developers have also been talking with potential tenants and ultimately plan to build more than 2 million square feet of office, housing, and open space on more than a dozen blocks covering half the neighborhood.

Both projects are essentially trying to create a new market for large-scale office tenants in a part of the metropolitan area long known for smaller-bore business, trucking, and light industry. That playbook has worked in other places as companies strive to be close to the core of Greater Boston without having to pay downtown rents, said Brendan Carroll, director of intelligence at Perry Brokerage, a real estate firm.

“Look at Boston Landing or Assembly Row. Not long ago these were not great places to go,” said Carroll, who is working on the Boynton Yards project with DLJ. “Now the projects there are smash hits, with tech companies leasing space there.”

Boston Landing and Assembly Row have both benefited from new rail stations: an MBTA commuter rail stop funded by New Balance that was built on the boundary between Brighton and Allston, and the new Assembly Station in Somerville on the Orange Line. The Union Square Green Line station, scheduled to open in 2021, is key to commercial development in the area, which is not on a highway. 

“It’s critical,” he said. “When the T gets there it’s going to change the entire area.”

Boynton Yards will include 240 parking spaces, Fenton said, and the developers are working with the city to improve road access to the site.

US2 $1B Somerville Plan on Fast Track

By Joe Clements
Read The Real Reporter. 

SOMERVILLE — The logo for developer Union Square Station Associates (US2) is colored orange, but the Midwestern firm’s ambitious $1 billion plan to transform a swath of gritty real estate here into “an economic engine” of laboratory and office space saw green lights across the board in late 2017 when city planners backed its “Coordinated Development Plan” and the Board of Alderman awarded $63 million of District Improvement Financing infrastructure funding including $5.5 million to support the long-awaited Green Line MBTA extension to Medford. The rail line is a linchpin of the US2 proposal for 2.4-million sf of build out, not to mention an item long on the wish list of other property owners in Union Square.

“We are really excited about what has happened . . . the end of last year was great for the CDP,” concurs US2 President Greg Karczewski in an interview with Real Reporter, explaining the city’s affirmative rulings “set the table” for the opening phase launching in 2018 where a 175,000sf commercial building is to be constructed alongside the new Green Line station.

JLL is exclusive leasing agent for the building, with inner suburban advisors Peter Bekarian and Molly Heath leading the charge, abutting Cambridge in their sphere of expertise. Commanding New England’s highest rents for both laboratory and office space, Cambridge is expected to be a conduit for tenant demand going forward in Somerville and other inner suburbs, with market watchers concurring the proximity to Kendall Square could give Union Square a leg up.

As designated master developer, US2 at full build out intends to deliver 2.4 million sf of laboratory, office and retail space on top of residential units favoring workforce housing, considered key to helping millennials and other employees afford to reside in one of the country’s most expensive sectors. CDP is designed to “propel Union Square into the future as an economic engine” providing 5,000 permanent positions after the 4,000 construction workers finish up years of development and incorporating lush open space into the mix.

In promoting their endeavor, US2 offered an intriguing metric showing 80 percent of Somerville residents leave the city every day for jobs in surrounding communities. “We are proud to be creating a true economic hub and place where startups and entrepreneurs can grow, families can work and live, and residents can enjoy new amenities and more open space,” Karczewski says, with $11.3 million in annual tax revenue part of the positive impact for the host community.

US2 further maintains the activity will carry over a daytime energy into the evening, “bringing in significant new spending to neighborhood businesses.” Indeed, Karczewski calls the CDP “a blueprint” mapping goals set by the Union Square Neighborhood Plan, the foundations of which champion “a dense and diverse network of public spaces that serve a variety of people.” About 60 percent of the built portion will be commercial and 40 percent residential.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone also hails the planning board and aldermen for supporting US2’s revitalization campaign, saying in prepared statements that board members “have secured a bright future for Union Square,” and tying it to a broader effort this millennium that has created entire new neighborhoods in Assembly Square or helped areas such as Davis Square attract investment at the public and private levels. “This is one more step in the progress we have made towards creating the employment center we have been envisioning for so long,” Curtatone says of the CDP/DIF milestones he says are intended to address multiple shortcomings. “We are eager to keep moving forward so Somerville residents will have more job opportunities, access to housing and new amenities within their community,” he says. 

How Union Sq. will be a regional economic driver - by Greg Karczewski

How Union Sq. will be a regional economic driver
by Greg Karczewski

Just one mile away from Harvard and Kendall Sq., where brains and biotech fuel economic growth, there is a neighborhood that is brimming with all the right ingredients - an eclectic mix of locally-owned businesses, neighborhood restaurants, an award-winning artisanal donut shop, coffee bars, a coworking space complete with a craft brewery and residents who annually turn their porches into performance spaces. The neighborhood - Somerville’s Union Sq. - is both historic and retro and firmly grounded in its unique cultural identity. It’s also a place where there is tremendous potential to add jobs, housing and transportation. As Somerville’s master development partner for Union Sq., we are buoyed by the fact that local, state and federal partners believe in the revitalization of the region and are supporting it with significant investments. The state has awarded over $16 million in MassWorks grants for infrastructure improvements in Union Sq. And last month, the federal government awarded $100 million of the $1 billion it pledged for the Green Line Extension.  Expanded Green Line service and new infrastructure is on the way to Union Sq.

Mass transit surely will be a catalyst for the revival of Union Sq., bringing more than 9,000 people a day to the Sq. and creating a 2.4 million s/f mixed-use regional destination where people come to work, live, play, dine and shop. A cornerstone of our plan is to create an urban employment district where entrepreneurs and startups can grow and the innovation economy can expand. There will be office, lab and research space to house the next cluster of technology, biotech and life science companies as well as places for artists, small business owners and retailers. This plan will bring 5,000 jobs and create over $11.3 million annually in new property tax revenue. 

Union Sq. has all of the components that will bring the next generation of companies to Somerville. Tenants, like companies growing out of Somerville-based Greentown Labs (the largest cleantech start-up incubator in the country), are already banking on the future of the neighborhood. We are too.

Read in New England Real Estate Journal


Community Meeting and Presentation

US2 is holding a community meeting and presentation regarding the creation of a neighborhood park. Please join us! If you are unable to join us but have questions or concerns, please contact us via phone at 617.804.1000 or e-mail us at info@unionsquarestationassociates.com

                  WHEN:             Wednesday, October 18

                  TIME:                6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

                  WHERE:            Public Safety Building, 220 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

Community interest high for Union Square plan

By Union Square Station Associates

On Tuesday, over one hundred and fifty residents, business owners and community stakeholders attended a neighborhood meeting hosted by Union Square Station Associates (US2) at the Public Safety Building in Union Square. Following the City of Somerville’s passage of the Union Square Overlay District zoning ordinance in June, the public meeting was US2’s first opportunity to present its overall vision for Union Square and start the Coordinated Development Plan process required by the zoning. The redevelopment of the seven parcels entrusted to US2 will serve as a catalyst for Union Square’s evolution into a pedestrian-friendly, 2.4 million-square-foot mixed-use employment center, all centered around the long anticipated MBTA Green Line station.

The neighborhood meeting was an open house format and consisted of six stations dedicated to different aspects of the project. Topics included a project overview & community process, creation of an employment center, open space, urban design, transportation and infrastructure, and community benefits. Fourteen members of the US2 team were present as well as City of Somerville staff from the Departments of Economic Development, Transportation and Infrastructure and Planning & Zoning. Each station was manned by US2 representatives who presented project information, answered questions and took written and verbal comments.

“We value the comments and suggestions that we received from community stakeholders at the unveiling of our Coordinated Development Plan,” US2 President Greg Karczewski said. “US2 will continue our commitment to engage community members throughout the development process.”

“I want to ensure we maintain the unique aspects of Union Square while capitalizing on the many benefits that the Green Line, will bring,” said Courtney O’Keefe, resident. “I appreciate US2’s willingness to work as a community partner.”

The presentation of the Coordinated Development Plan was the culmination of decades of planning by residents, businesses and the city. The Plan seeks to maintain the vibrancy that characterizes Union Square while adding 1.4 million square feet of new work spaces and over 2.5 acres of open space. The Plan will generate over 5,000 new permanent jobs and 4,000 new construction jobs as well as millions of dollars in job linkage payments to support local workforce development initiatives. The Plan also addresses housing shortages in Somerville by creating new housing stock for families, empty nesters, young workers and everyone in between, 20 percent of which will be permanently affordable.

The Plan will result in over $100 million dollars in public and community benefit, including $19.2 million in US2 cash contributions to the Green Line, infrastructure needs and community benefits. The Green Line extension will better connect and make Union Square a key driver of the regional economy. Additionally, residents will benefit from substantial infrastructure improvements, including improvements to outdated water and sewage systems and the creation of a safer pedestrian environment and bike lanes.

The plan includes 61% commercial and 39% residential uses which will create significant local job opportunities and also realize an important SomerVision goal to shift the tax base to be more commercial. The city is projected to receive over $471 million of revenue from taxes, permit fees and land sales from the project over the next 30 years.

Input from the neighborhood meeting will inform US2’s Coordinated Development Plan application and the development plan moving forward. US2 plans to submit their Coordinated Development Plan application and pursue a Planning Board decision this fall.



Somerville Approves Zoning For 2.3M SF Union Square Development

Cameron Sperance, Bisnow Boston

The Somerville Board of Aldermen voted 9-1 this month to approve zoning changes that would allow a $1B, master-planned commercial development to begin in Union Square alongside the long-awaited Green Line Extension.

“Union Square’s proximity to Kendall Square, MIT and Harvard, one the densest innovation centers in the world, makes it poised for the next wave of economic growth,” Union Square Station Associates (US2) President Greg Karczewski said.

US2 is Somerville’s development partner on the state-approved Union Square Revitalization Project. The plan includes 2.3M SF of transit-oriented, mixed-use development with nearly 1.4M SF reserved for offices at full build-out.

US2 competed against developers from around the country to get the master developer rights for the neighborhood and was officially selected in 2014. It has spent the time since in talks with the surrounding community on how to proceed with the planning and rezoning process.

“One of the goals in the plan stems from how Somerville is one of the most densely populated residential communities in the country and how this development can take some of the tax burden off its residents,” Karczewski said.

Upwards of 85% of Somerville’s residents leave the city to work in areas like Kendall Square, where companies are increasingly getting priced out or face growing pains with nowhere to build in the neighborhood’s notably tight lab and office market. Karczewski sees this as an opportunity for US2 to build office, lab, retail and hotel space and make Union Square an employment center. Flickr/Eric Kilby A Green Line train departs from Lechmere Station, which will be relocated with the Green Line Extension.

The first phase of the project will be the D2 block, just north of the site of the future Union Square Green Line station. The initial phase is expected to have 400 units of housing and 175K SF of offices or labs. Construction is planned to begin in 2018 and wrap up before the new Green Line station opens in 2021.

When the Green Line Extension was at risk of getting cancelled when its costs ballooned by $1B, Union Square’s development potential came into question. After all, a key component was the new Green Line station getting built in the middle of the neighborhood. The Federal Transit Administration finally approved a scaled-down $2.3B version in April. 

The Somerville Board of Alderman voted in December 2016 to put $50M toward the transit link, and Cambridge is paying $25M. US2 will make a $5.5M public benefits contribution to the project.

“We couldn’t think of a better investment,” Karczewski said. “Train connectivity is key to our vision.” 

Read more at: https://www.bisnow.com/boston/news/mixed-use/somerville-approves-zoning-for-23m-sf-union-square-development-76027?rt=43645?utm_source=CopyShare&utm_medium=Browser

Boston Revitalization Project Moves Forward


A $1 billion plan will bring 2.3 million square feet of mixed-use, transit-oriented development to Somerville, Mass., over the next two decades.

by Gail Kalinoski | Jun 15, 2017

Construction on the first phase of a $1 billion mixed-use development plan in Union Square in Somerville, Mass., should begin next year now that the city’s Board of Aldermen has approved a rezoning plan for the project.

The zoning approval, which took about three years with community input, sets the stage for the strategic, long-term growth of 2.3 million square feet of new mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the Boston suburb that will be part of a $2.3 billion extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line light rail system, according to Greg Karczewski, president of the Union Square Station Associates (US2) development team.

“Union Square’s proximity to Kendall Square, MIT and Harvard – one of the densest innovation centers in the world – makes it poised for the next wave of economic growth. We’re bringing 2.3 million square feet of new mixed-use, transit-oriented development to one of the hottest real estate markets. Somerville has great restaurants, historic neighborhoods, a distinctive creative culture and a young, educated workforce, making it one of the most up-and-coming cities in the U.S.,” Karczewski said in a prepared statement.


US2 plans to make about $1 billion in investments over the next 15 to 20 years as the Union Square project is built out. Developed on 15.5 acres, plans call for about 1.38 million square feet of new office, lab, hotel, retail and arts spaces. The balance of the space will be residential development, including 20 percent set aside for affordable units. The developers are also committed to creating 25 percent green and civic spaces. Phase One, which should start in 2018 and be completed before the Green Line station in 2021, is expected to include about 400 housing units and 175,000 square feet of space for lab, office and retail uses.

“We’re really excited to implement the first phase of the development, which will unlock the potential of Union Square and bring the Green Line, new job opportunities, housing alternatives and pedestrian connections to the neighborhood, making it a more inviting place for workers and families,”Karczewski told Commercial Property Executive.

“Somerville residents and businesses are passionate about Union Square and that’s what made it such a great place to live and work. That same passion will drive the evolution of the square,” he added.

US2 plans to present its coordinated development plan for Union Square to the community in the next few months. The developers have already agreed to contribute $5.5 million to the Green Line project, part of $19.2 million in public benefit contributions US2 will provide. Somerville officials and US2 estimate the new development will generate more than $10 million in annual tax revenue and permitting fees. The development is also expected to create more than 5,000 new permanent jobs and 4,000 construction jobs.

EVENT: The Next Innovation Center: Why Not Somerville?

Tuesday, February 28 - 4:00pm
Holiday Inn - Bunker Hill
30 Washington Street
Somerville, MA 02143

The Next Innovation Center: Why Not Somerville?.  Attendees will learn insights from industry thought leaders as to how the City of Somerville can capitalize on the current market environment to realize its goals of becoming a regional jobs and innovation center.

“The forward momentum of the Green Line Extension and the innovation zoning currently before the Board of Alderman provide a unique opportunity for the City to lure anchor life science tenants to major squares, including Union Square,” said Somerville Chamber of Commerece President/CEO Stephen Mackey. 

Click Here to Register for the Event

ICYMI: Seaport, Alewife Pitch Life Science Space

By Steve Adams

Click here to read the full article in the Banker & Tradesman.

For life science companies in expansion mode, the usual alternative to high-cost, vacancy-starved Kendall Square has been suburban office parks off Route 128.

Now seasoned developers such as Davis Cos. and Related Beal are betting that market conditions are ripe to enlarge life science clusters in Boston’s Seaport District, Cambridge’s Alewife and inner-ring suburbs.

“You’re going to start to see some of the early-stage companies go to the Watertowns and the Seaports of the world, which we haven’t seen in the past,” said Mark Winters, executive managing director for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

Davis Cos. is laying the groundwork for lab expansion in Alewife. It received city approval on Dec. 12 to renovate and expand 35 Cambridge Park Drive into nearly 190,000 square feet of office and lab space opposite the MBTA Red Line station. The space is expected to be available in mid-2018.

Davis Cos. “have the capital and the ability to create the best biotech lab building in the Alewife market without question,” said Brendan Carroll, director of intelligence for Boston-based Encompass Real Estate Strategies. “It’s the perfect landing point for public transit accessibility and the more seasoned biotech workers who live in the western suburbs.”

While Alewife offers steep rent discounts compared to East Cambridge, the neighborhood has battled the reputation of a suburban environment with downtown traffic congestion. But Cambridge developer King Street Properties’ recent lease-up of vacant former Pfizer lab buildings on Cambridge Park Drive confirmed the neighborhood’s ability to attract early-stage biotech companies. The lab vacancy rate now stands at 0.0 percent in the 627,000-square-foot Alewife submarket, according to Encompass data.

Related Beal is planning a speculative 125,000-square-foot office and lab complex on Tide Street in Boston’s Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, as the first phase of a 355,000-square-foot complex. It added to its Seaport holdings in December with the acquisition of the ground lease for 27 Drydock Ave. The 286,000-square-foot converted Army warehouse in recent has become home to life science tenants Ginkgo Bioworks, InviCRO and Emulate as well as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute offices and research space. Related Beal says it plans to make “strategic capital investment” to the property to attract R&D tenants.

The arrival of Related Beal – which has a track record of repositioning lab complexes such as One Kendall Square – bodes well for 27 Drydock’s prospects, Winters said.

“One of the things we hear in the Seaport is, ‘Who owns it?’” Winters said. “Now you’ve got a lab guy who’s done it and is willing to make the investment. The only question is: can Kendall Square companies get there quickly?”

In Watertown, Cresset Partners is marketing up to 120,000 square feet of office or lab space at 65 Grove St., the former GE Ionics factory that it acquired in 2014.

East Cambridge’s chronic shortage of lab space reflects intense demand from life science startups looking to grow in the shadow of MIT and potential venture capital backers, as well as pharmaceutical giants’ determination to tap into Greater Boston’s well-educated labor pool.

Even after absorbing 1.3 million square feet of lab space in 2016, Cambridge addresses are being sought by lab users for another 750,000 square feet. Major tenant requirements include Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Abbvie, Shire and Astellas Pharma US, according to Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

That’s expected to drive rents even higher in a market where gross leases for some class A properties top $100 per square foot, Winters said. Kendall Square lab vacancies ended the year at 2.4 percent.

Lexington, a traditional relief valve market for Cambridge, appears positioned to lead suburban life science markets in the short term. Irish pharma giant Shire’s 200,000-square-foot expansion at 95 Hayden Ave. last summer gave it over 1.9 million square feet of suburban office and lab space in seven Massachusetts communities, before committing in November to another 343,000 square feet at BioMed Realty’s 500 Kendall St. in Cambridge.

Anticipating continued industry growth, King Street Properties acquired the former Cubist Pharmaceuticals campus in Lexington in November for $167 million. King Street plans to convert a vacant 215,000-square-foot lab building at 65 Hayden Ave. into multitenant space marketed to life science startups.

Other life science companies scouting suburban sites include Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which has an expiring lease at 33 Hayden Ave. in Lexington, and Astellas, which is looking as far as the central Route 495 submarket, said Mark Roth, an executive managing director for Newmark.

The industry’s local expansion has potential to accelerate, Encompass’s Carroll noted. While four of the industry’s seven largest companies occupy more than 300,000 square feet in Massachusetts, only Waltham-based Alere and Cambridge-based Biogen Idec are headquartered in the Bay State. Shire, the industry’s largest space occupier in Massachusetts, ranks behind 21 others in annual revenues.

“There are dozens of Shires that are not here yet,” Carroll said.

Click here to read the full article in the Banker & Tradesman.

US2 Renews Megawatt Sponsorship to Greentown Labs


This week, US2 President Greg Karczewski announced that we have renewed our Megawatt Sponsorship of Greentown Labs.

A beloved fixture of ‘Innovation Row’ in Union Square, Greentown Labs provides prototyping space, shared machine shop tools, office space, and education to over 40 bold energy entrepreneurs.  Greentown Labs empowers local leaders with space to innovate, experiment, and expand as they create game-changing energy technologies that transform the way we live.

Somerville’s comprehensive planning document, “SomerVision,” calls for Union Square to be an engine for economic growth. To that end, US2 is working with the community and stakeholders to develop and implement a plan for evolving the neighborhood into an employment center focused on technology and innovation. US2’s partnership with Greentown Labs is another step the developer is taking toward fulfilling this vision.

Workbar Union, Sponsored by US2, Turns One!

Birthday celebrations are in order - on October 13, Workbar Union turned one! Join us to celebrate on October 29 from 12-4pm at 31 Union Square!

Workbar Union, hosted by US2, offers coworking and community to over 90 local members in the heart of Union Square, Somerville. With open workspaces, comfortable lounges, local art, and regular events, Workbar Union is a destination and resource for Somerville’s entrepreneurs, independent professionals, and small businesses. Since opening, we’ve hosted dozens of public events and provided over 60 hours of free conference space to local community groups, businesses, and nonprofits.

Located at 31 Union Square, US2’s investment in Workbar Union activated a longtime vacant space in the Square with the aim of adding vitality to the neighborhood through increased daytime activity and jumpstarting our shared vision of making Union Square an employment center.  To learn more about how Workbar Union is contributing to the expansion of Somerville’s economy, click here!

ICYMI: US2 working to make Union Square a regional employment center

General Electric’s move from Connecticut to Boston is the latest high profile employer to make the greater metro area its home. The unique combination of a highly educated workforce, a cluster of elite universities, and an ecosystem of high-tech, research and development, and health science firms make the region highly attractive to cutting edge industries.

Outside of Boston, Cambridge has been a major beneficiary of this growth, but with its planned redevelopment, Somerville’s Union Square is looking to get in on the action.

Somerville’s comprehensive plan, SomerVision, envisions the city as a regional employment center, a concept that is driving the planning process in Union Square. US2, the master developer partner for the redevelopment, has made the employment center idea the centerpiece of its early efforts, and has taken a series of steps already to fulfill that vision.

Among the initial actions US2 took was to partner with Boston-based co-working space network Workbar to bring a location to Union Square. The resulting Workbar Union is an “innovative way to bring more vitality and commerce to Union Square and jumpstart its revitalization, helping both new and existing businesses,” said US2 President Greg Karczewski in a press release from last June’s announcement of the deal.

Workbar Union is located in the former Elegant Furniture building, which had been vacant since the fall of 2014 and required many improvements to reactivate it. US2 utilized local contractors to perform the work, and even commissioned a local artist, Crystal Rene Burney, to design and paint an indoor mural that pays tribute to Union Square. Workbar Union plays host to US2’s headquarters as well.

Now, on any given day, the space is bustling with entrepreneurs that Karzewski hopes will grow their enterprise in Union Square. In the meantime, neighboring restaurants and shops have noticed an uptick in business thanks to new workers who frequent the shared office space downtown. Karczewski says Workbar Union will “help prime the local employment market” in preparation for the redevelopment.

In conjunction with Union Square Main Streets, US2 is also sponsoring a technical assistance program to help local storefront businesses take advantage of the changes that are coming to Union Square. The program is operated by the City of Somerville and provides assessments, recommendations and implementation support from retail experts and a $1,000 grant to help small businesses implement these recommendations. So far, nine small businesses have been selected to participate in the program.

“This program will help us grow our business in ways that benefit our community,” said program beneficiary Kim LaFoy, co-owner of Loyal Supply Company, a design firm, retailer, and distributor of home, office and studio supplies. “We appreciate the support we’re receiving from US2, and it’s nice to know they’re supporting existing local businesses as they revitalize Union Square.”

Bringing more activity to the Square is critical to building a thriving downtown, and it is a common thread in US2’s efforts. The need for more daytime activity inspired US2’s “Union Lunch” series over the summer. The ten-week lunch hour series in Union Square Plaza featured more than 20 local vendors serving up their most popular lunch dishes, desserts and marketing their goods. US2 estimates the series drew 500 patrons and created over $5,000 in lunchtime revenue.

Also fitting into US2’s employment center strategy is the old Union Square Post Office. While the building occupies a parcel designated for development by US2, Karczewki’s team instead opted to collaborate with the building’s new owners, led by legendary concert promoter Don Law, to turn the building into a mixed-use facility.

In December, Karczewski joined Law and his business partner Seth Grady at a public meeting to unveil and receive public feedback on potential designs for the building. Attendees were enthusiastic about the initial proposals, which include live performance space in the building’s basement, a market and a co-working office space.

Central to all of this is the completion of a MBTA station in Union Square as part of the Green Line Extension. Projected cost overruns have led some to propose nixing the station in favor of a shuttle or commuter rail stop. Somerville officials have strongly objected to any plan that does not include a T stop that residents have been fighting for over two decades.

Karczewski believes the T station is necessary to realize the full economic development potential of Union Square, but has expressed confidence that Mayor Curtatone, local officials and Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration will find a way to ensure the promise of a Union Square station is kept.

Regardless, US2 is continuing to pursue the employment center strategy. “SomerVision, imagines a city where you live near where you work and shop, and where public transportation options link the city to the region,” said Karcewski in a recent statement. “While the landscape may be shifting, US2’s commitment to realizing that future for Union Square is not.”

Workbar Union Grand Opening Celebration

Last week, US2 and Workbar Union celebrated the grand opening of Workbar Union at the former Elegant Furniture building in the heart of Union Square. Founded by US2 and Workbar, Workbar Union will provide a home for early-stage companies and entrepreneurs as they seek to grow and to contribute to the expansion of Somerville’s economy.  The space will be a collaboration center for over 75 members from a diverse array of fields, interests, and industries. Members benefit from high quality office amenities including fast and secure wifi, printer, scanner, conference rooms with A/V equipment, bottomless fair trade coffee, and access to the fantastic local businesses located within steps of the office. US2 has dedicated offices within the space, and we look forward to working amongst emerging businesses looking to grow in the Square.

ICYMI: A Seat at the Bar: WORKBAR UNION Brings Much Needed Work Space to Union Square

Read the full article by Doug Holder here. 

While walking across Somerville Ave. in Union Square I noticed that the old Elegant Furniture storefront was inhabited by a new concept. So I took a detour from my usual haunts, the Bloc 11 Cafe, Market Basket, etc., and walked right in. At the front desk was Anne Sholley – the freckled-face and friendly “Space and Community Manager ” of the WORKBAR. Like a grizzled reporter from the play The Front Page, I said, “Doug Holder, The Somerville Times.” Sholley proved to be a gracious host and explained to me that the WORKBAR is a “co-working space” founded by Bill Jacobson, a pioneer of this work space movement. Sholley explained that folks can rent space in this expansive venue on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. 

Looking around the space I noticed a much welcomed veil of silence – unlike what you might find in the many bustling coffee shops in these environs. Sholley told me, “Many of the people who come here to work are independent workers – writers, people who work a distance from the home corporation, as well as small grassroots businesses. We offer office space on an ongoing basis.” And indeed, there were a series of long tables with computer outlets, with plenty of space for patrons to spread out and plug in.

Sholley said the WORKBAR at Union Square holds many events, panels as well as demos from small companies to make it more of a community than an extended office. 

Sholley believes the WORKBAR is in a great location, She opined, “Union Square is on the brink of being a great place for entrepreneurs with the much promised Green Line extension. There is a lot of energy here – it just feels awesome.”

 WORKBAR is in partnership with US2, a master developer that is intimately involved with the gentrification of the neighborhood.

 Sholley gave me a tour of the facility. She guided me to a number of small conference rooms – one of which is named after Somerville’s Hal Connolly – a 1956 Olympic winner for the Hammer Throw. There is also a mural by Somerville artist Crystal Burney that incorporates such Somerville hot spots as Brooklyn Boulder, etc. They also have a kitchen that offers free coffee and a variety of snacks.

I told Sholley that I might pay them a visit with stacks of papers to be graded, poems to write, and articles that have a deadline. Space is at a premium in Somerville, and now Somerville has a premium space.


Workbar Union, Hosted by US2: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Workbar Union?

Workbar Union is a new coworking space located in the heart of Union Square (31 Union Square). Founded by US2, the master developer for Union Square’s redevelopment, in partnership with Workbar, a Boston and Cambridge based coworking company. Workbar Union is a vibrant shared workspace for startups, independent professionals, small businesses, and remote employees from larger enterprises. Members benefit from high quality office amenities including fast and secure wifi, printer, scanner, conference rooms with A/V equipment, bottomless fair trade coffee, fruits and snacks. Most importantly, Workbar Union members are surrounded by a strong community in Union Square and across 11 other spaces within the Workbar Network.


Why did US2 bring Workbar to Union?

One of US2’s goals for the redevelopment of Union Square is to foster the neighborhood’s evolution into a significant jobs center, thereby fulfilling a community objective outlined in the SomerVision strategic plan. US2 leased the space, initiated the partnership with Workbar and funded the space improvements to create Workbar Union. US2 wanted to create a coworking space in Union Square and invest in the Workbar Union project as an early action to stimulate the local employment market.


What activities will take place at Workbar Union?

Workbar Union will provide a home for early-stage companies and entrepreneurs as they seek to grow and thrive in Somerville’s bustling creative economy. The space will be a collaboration center for 75 local workers and will be connected to a community of over 1000 workers throughout metro Boston. It will add to the square’s business and community vitality by hosting regular community events and business forums.


Why 31 Union Square?

It’s great space in an historic building in the heart of the square. It was an opportunity for US2 to take a property that had been vacant for almost nine months, invest in its improvement and reactivate it in a way that supports the future of Union Square.


How do I join Workbar Union?

Click here to learn more about Workbar Union and schedule your tour. Also, please feel free to stop by the space and meet with our community manager, Anne Sholley. She can give you a tour and guide you through the process. If you have any questions, you can always email Anne at Anne@workbar.com.


Will US2 have an office in Workbar Union?

Yes, Workbar Union will serve as US2’s headquarters in Somerville, MA, and US2 will have dedicated offices within the coworking space. For the last nine months, we’ve been working out of Workbar Cambridge and we look forward to moving closer to home.


Why did US2 decide to partner with Workbar?

Workbar is an ideal partner for US2.  They are home grown (started in Boston in 2009) and they are the nation’s leading operator of coworking spaces. Curbed Boston praised Workbar as “the most community driven” of all the Boston-area coworking companies, and readers ranked it the “best third space work option in Boston.” Our partnership is an innovative way to bring more vitality and commerce to Union Square and jumpstart its revitalization, helping both new and existing businesses.


What is happening with the storefront windows?

Neither US2 nor Workbar owns the property that will house Workbar Union.  US2 is a tenant in the building along with Thrive Studio and a number of upper floor tenants, and does not have any ownership interest in the property.  Under our lease with the owner 31-33 Union Square, US2 is responsible for the interior build out of the space it is leasing.  The owner is renovating the exterior of the building and it is our understanding that the ownership is evaluating alternatives for the storefront after receiving community feedback regarding its initial renovation proposal.


Who is US2?

Union Square Station Associates (US2) is the City of Somerville’s master developer partner for the state-approved Union Square Revitalization Project that includes over 15 acres of redevelopment near the future Union Square MBTA Green Line Station. US2 is collaborating with the community to create a vital and viable redevelopment plan for Union Square that realizes the community objectives as laid out in Somerville’s long-term plan, SomerVision. These objectives include making Union Square into a destination for employers, creating public green space, achieving housing goals with a range of affordability, and preserving the historical character and authenticity that everybody loves today.

For more information on US2, visit www.us2unionsquare.com, or find us on Twitter or Facebook.


Who is Workbar?

Workbar is a network of shared, coworking office spaces for all business types—including startups, independent professionals, small businesses, and remote teams from large enterprises. Along with a productive work environment, Workbar fosters a vibrant community ready and willing to help each other build, create, and grow their businesses. Started in 2009, Workbar has grown its Network to 12 sites and over 1000 members from 250+ different companies.

For more information on Workbar, visit www.workbar.com.

US2 Announces “Workbar Union” Open House & Community Week

New US2-Workbar Partnership Brings Flexible Coworking Space To Union Square; Residents Offered Four Days of Free Use

Somerville, MA - Union Square Station Associates (US2), the City’s master developer partner for Union Square’s revitalization, and Boston-based coworking space network Workbar will open the doors to Union Square’s newest business, Workbar Union, for an open house on Monday, October 19th from 3:00pm – 7:00pm at 31 Union Square, followed by four days of free use for local residents.

Workbar Union is a vibrant, shared workspace for startups, independent professionals, small businesses, and remote employees from larger enterprises. Members benefit from high quality office amenities including fast and secure wifi, printers, scanners, conference rooms with A/V equipment, bottomless fair trade coffee, fruits and snacks. From Tuesday, October 20th until Friday, October 23rd, Workbar Union is offering free access to Somerville residents.

“One of US2’s goals for the redevelopment of Union Square is to evolve the neighborhood into a significant jobs center and to fulfill community objectives outlined in the SomerVision strategic plan,” said Greg Karczewski, president of US2. “So, we leased the space, invested in the build out and recruited Workbar as an operator to create a new coworking space in Union Square.  It's an important early step in our job creation strategy for Union Square and will stimulate the local employment market and generate more daytime activity.”

Located at 31 Union Square, the former home of Elegant Furniture, Workbar Union will be a collaboration center for 75 local workers and will be connected to a community of over 1000 workers throughout metro Boston. Members are surrounded by a strong community in Union Square and across 11 other spaces within the Workbar Network .

Through the Workbar Union partnership, US2 was able to take a property that had been vacant for almost nine months, invest in its improvement and reactivate it in a way that supports the future of Union Square and its residents. Among the many improvements sponsored by US2 is a wall mural designed by local artist Crystal Rene Burney that celebrates the vibrancy, diversity and potential of Union Square.

In constructing the project, US2 was committed to hiring local contractors. J.J. Vaccaro Inc., a Union Square-based union general contractor completed the construction of the project along with other Somerville-based subcontractors including Bent Electrical Contractors, Pavidis Plumbing and New Color Painting Company. In addition, local businesses helped put some finishing touches on the space including SRP Sign Corporation and Recover Green Roofs.

“We are excited to extend the Workbar Network of coworking spaces to Union Square and for US2's partnership here,” said Bill Jacobson, Founder & CEO of Workbar. “Workbar Union will provide Somerville’s startups, small businesses and remote professionals the ability to grow their enterprises and create jobs locally while attracting new daytime activity and commerce that will benefit the Square’s existing businesses.”

Made up of thriving start-ups, creative entrepreneurs, independent professionals, and enterprise teams, the interactive and collaborative atmosphere of Workbar gives members access to all of the resources their businesses need to grow. Members enjoy a motivating and productive work environment and a strong network of friendship and support from a vibrant community full of professional and social connections ready and willing to help each other build, create, and succeed. Workbar Union will also offer a wide variety of social and educational programming open to the public including lunch seminars, workshops, networking events and happy hours.

“Workbar Union is a welcome addition to Union Square, and I applaud US2’s vision and investment which speaks to their commitment to the neighborhood and focus on job creation in the community, and bodes well for the future of the Square’s revitalization,” added Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston.