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.