On Monday, the demolition of Somerville’s hulking, long-out-of-place waste transfer station will begin, and a gaggle of wrecking celebrities will join Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston for a “Wallbreaking” Ceremony to celebrate. Wreck-It Ralph, Mario of Nintendo fame, and some kids (because kids love to wreck stuff), as well as the wrecking field’s latest hanger on, “Miley Cyrus,”* will all join in on Monday, October 28, at 4:15 p.m., to give the structure a few good sledgehammer whacks. Demolition company S&R Corporation of Lowell will then knock down part of the structure. (Think of it as a groundbreaking ceremony, but in reverse.)
Musical selections including “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel will add to the festive atmosphere and guests will be given souvenir chips of the structure (Berlin Wall style) to preserve the memory.
“We may be gathering to mark the tearing down of the transfer station, but we are celebrating the building of a new future for Brickbottom and InnerBelt,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “In creating SomerVision, the city’s 20-Year Comprehensive Plan, community members designated Brickbottom/InnerBelt as a transformative area targeted for mixed-use, transit-oriented redevelopment that will provide an economic engine for our city. And with the transfer station coming down, the Green Line Extensioncoming in, and the grounding of McGrath under review, we are well on our way. Reclaiming this once and future thriving neighborhood will help us reach our shared SomerVision goals of creating 30,000 new jobs, new and affordable housing, and new commercial tax revenues to fund our services and schools.”
Waste Management operated a trash transfer station at the Brickbottom location until closing in the summer of 2013 as part of an agreement with the city. Prior to that, the site housed a trash incineration facility that spewed ash into the air, causing its surrounding neighborhoods to all but disappear. The Brickbottom Artists building is the lone residential outpost in the current industrial area where bustling neighborhoods once stood.
“We have an exceptional opportunity here to leverage two significant infrastructure projects—the Green Line Extension and the grounding of McGrath—to both revitalize this area as well as create new and vital links between our neighborhoods and also to our neighbors in Cambridge and Boston as well,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston. “I look forward to seeing a new, welcoming, flourishing neighborhood sprout from this landscape and to working with the community to make sure its transformation brings real value both to Ward 2 and our city as a whole,”
S&R Corporation will begin demolition of the transfer station on Monday, Oct. 28, and, weather permitting, work is expected to be complete by mid-November. The above-ground structure will be removed, the remaining foundation capped, and electric and sewer will remain intact to allow interim use of the site. The city is actively working with residents of the Brickbottom Artists building to brainstorm possibilities, among them a container market, which could repurpose shipping containers into an inviting cluster of retail locations, urban ag projects, work spaces and perhaps a café.
“All discussions are completely preliminary at this point, but the idea is to activate the space and bring life into it during the transition from the transfer station to its ultimate use, and the Mayor felt that Brickbottom residents, the people who have been looking out their windows for some 25 years at the waste transfer station, should be the ones to guide how we reinvent it,” said Hayes Morrison, Director of Transportation and Infrastructure, who has been meeting with Brickbottom residents and the Somerville Arts Council to explore interim options.
Long-term planning for the area is also underway via both an ongoing community process to determine a long-term plan for InnerBelt/Brickbottom as well as a public process to develop plans for the de-elevation of McGrath Highway. A draft of the InnerBelt/Brickbottom Master Plan, resulting from the two-year community process begun in 2011, should be available for public comment by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the State has finalized its study of the de-elevation of McGrath and is moving both a 4-lane and a 6-lane “Boulevard Option” into review. After continued public, city, and state review, McGrath could break ground in five to seven years. As designs for McGrath reach consensus, plans will be able to move forward for Brickbottom, and, as always, any proposals will be discussed via a robust community process.
“What we’ve heard from residents helping to shape the Master Plan for InnerBelt/Brickbotton is that they want infrastructure that connects the area to surrounding neighborhoods and creates walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible spaces. And they care about placemaking,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Residents want to honor the urban grit and the funky artist community that is already here and bring those unique characteristics forward into a new vision for the neighborhood. This area abounds with opportunity, and on Monday, we’ll take a big step forward toward seizing these promising possibilities and making them Somerville’s own.”
*Please note, all celebrities will be impersonators (aka city staff with no shame), not the actual persons or official mascots for those named.