By Ross Blouin
This past week Governor Charlie Baker and Housing and Economic Development Secretary, Jay Ash joined Mayor Joe Curtatone and Union Square Station Associates (US2) President, Greg Karcewski, to announce a $13Million MassWorks Infrastructure grant for Union Square.
The $13M award is the largest single award given to a city or town in the MassWorks program history. The funds will allow the city of Somerville to make extensive water and sewer improvements in Union Square and support the redevelopment of the city’s Master Development parcels in the Square. A requirement for this grant funding is that applicants have proven shovel-ready projects that need the additional financial support to secure private sector investment. Somerville’s proposal was made more competitive because of the city’s development partner, Union Square Station Associates. US2 has been working through the community process for over two (2) years and is poised to move forward once zoning is adopted.
“MassWorks allows us to support public infrastructure investments generating immediate investments that bring new jobs and housing to our cities and towns,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a press release about the announcement. “It is also one of our most flexible programs, empowering communities to seek effective solutions to local priorities, and allowing the Administration to focus on funding projects that will generate substantial, long-term regional growth.”
The MassWorks competitive grant process generated 114 applications from municipalities across the Commonwealth requesting $287 million in public infrastructure funding. The 2016 grants will generate $1 billion in private investments in these communities. “The spirit of partnership at the heart of the MassWorks Infrastructure Program is a key component of our ongoing efforts to prepare communities for economic success, and to promote strong, vibrant regions,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “The public-private partnerships we advance through these infrastructure awards will build a stronger economy for everyone who lives and works in Massachusetts.”
This is the second time the Baker-Polito Administration supported Union Square’s redevelopment efforts. In 2015 the City was awarded $3.3 million that was matched by $3.5 million in city revenues to provide major streetscape improvements to the Prospect Street section of the Square. Currently the Board of Aldermen are reviewing the zoning changes needed to advance the development of the 15 acres of land in Union Square and are expected to vote on those changes sometime this fall. Construction on Phase one is expected to begin in the fall of 2017.