Discussion of Union Square Revitalization Plan continues

On September 26, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Cathleen Twardzik

The discussion about the Union Square Revitalization Plan continued at a recent Housing and Community Development Committee, Committee of the Whole meeting.

The meeting “was a public hearing. Various topics from the public [were] discussed related to the redevelopment plan,” said Maryann Heuston, Alderman of Ward 2 of Somerville.

The urban renewal plan, which spans 117 acres in the Union Square area, includes seven development blocks which are slated for acquisition by the city after a period of several years. It would implement the development vision.

Interested individuals may view a copy of the plan here.

Thomas P. Champion, Executive Director of Communications and Cable of the City of Somerville thinks that the plan is a good idea for copious reasons. First, “the Union Square Revitalization Plan is the culmination of a lot of work done by city officials and residents going back many years, most recently with the SomerVision Comprehensive plan and the rezoning of Union Square.”

He believes that the plan is “a logical and necessary step” to maintain the MBTA’s MassDOT’s partnership with the city.  That will ensure that the Green Line Extension continues to progress.

Ultimately, the project may generate 4,300 jobs, as well as provide 850 residential units.

“The plan helps the city honor its end of the Memorandum of Agreement between the city and MassDOT/MBTA to supply available land for the Green Line stop at Union Square. At the same time, it implements the zoning approved by the BOA in 2009 to allow for more growth in Union Square. Both of these items greatly enhance the potential for long-term, sustainable, economic development in Somerville,” said Champion.

“If the plan is approved, [then] there are no immediate plans to acquire the parcel that includes the CrossFit Gym location, and it is unclear whether any specific properties will be acquired in parcels not directly related to the site of the new Green Line station, even if they are included in designated acquisition areas under the plan,” he said.

The Union Square Revitalization Plan was not approved at the meeting, according to Heuston. “Nothing [was finalized], it was a public hearing,” she said.

“The hearing was a chance for the public to present their views to the aldermen and put their opinions on the record. It was not designed to finalize the proposal,” said Champion. “The plan was sent back into Committee on Housing for discussion. If approved on Tuesday night, the plan will be brought before the Board of Alderman on Thursday night for a final vote.”

As for the next steps in the process, after having heard residents’ questions, “[the BOA Committee on Housing and Community Development] will, then, decide whether to report out the plan for a full vote at the scheduled regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Thursday,” said Champion.

On Thursday, if it is then approved, it will be sent to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development “for review and approval at the state level.”

After that, beginning from the date from which it was submitted, the department will be allowed 60 days to render its decision. “That would be the final step before the city could begin implementing a fully-approved plan,” according to Champion.



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