By Douglas Yu
After a series of crowd sourced meetings throughout the summer, Somerville by Design brought people’s attention from East Somerville to Davis Square this time. As a cutting edge and civically engaged organization, its goal is to provide enough parking spaces through strategic planning and to make Somerville a world-class city.
“We are bringing up the issues that people were concerned about from the meetings in the summer,” Senior Planner from Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development, Lori Massa said. “The affordable housing and parking are always big topics.”
It is a fact that only by expanding parking space can we bring other issues into the light, as Massa put it. She said the more important thing is the techniques that Somerville by Design adopts to manage parking.
“It’s great to have an underground parking lot, but problems that are related to expense, water table, environment will come to the table,” Massa said.
Building a vertical parking lot is still under discussion. The results of the parking study and many other issues will be addressed at the next meeting. The City of Somerville can make final plans according to those results.
“There is a lot of surface parking that is around Davis Square, that would be better if the parking space goes vertical,” Russell Preston of Principal Group said.
Contrary to Somerville and many other small town American cities, European cities usually deck under the streets and there are also two ramps on one side of the street that access to the underground parking space.
The other problem about these parking spaces is that they are privately owned, according to Preston.
“A lot of private owners tore down their buildings and built their parking lots within those blocks. That takes a lot of above-ground space,” Preston said. “Sharing parking space in the basement is a good solution for this problem.”
At the same time, tourists who visit Somerville may complain that there are few hotels around the city for them to stay in. Instead they have to spend more by staying in downtown Boston, especially during the visit peak time periods.
“The community is more interested in an independently operated facility that’s more unique than a typical chain,” Preston said. “Davis Square is one of the European-feeling places around Boston, because of the character, the street lights spread out and so on.”
It is felt that small town cities in the U.S. need to try to leverage the public infrastructure that they have on the streets, and public spaces in order to increasingly improve the life quality of the cities.
New ideas keep coming up, according to Preston. These include urban management entities cooperating with Somerville to deal with cleaning up the streets, public safety issues and supporting small businesses.
Even though the cost and feasibility of implementing these plans have not been completely determined, the meetings so far brought Somerville residents together to come up with a lot of sustainable ideas.
“Parking is a byproduct of making Davis Square a more inviting, people-oriented place,” Preston said. “A people oriented place makes it a world-class city.”
The next Somerville by Design meeting will be on October 17. Somerville residents are welcome to brainstorm more ideas for the city.