Hello new Brickbottom, goodbye waste transfer station

On November 21, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and  do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff  or publishers)

It’s almost gone. At the end of October, we held a ‘wallbreaking ceremony’—a groundbreaking ceremony, but in reverse—for the Brickbottom waste transfer station. That wallbreaking ceremony was not about celebrating destroying things. We celebrated what we are building—and what is to come. We’re removing what is, along with McGrath Highway, the biggest barrier to redevelopment in Brickbottom. We’re tearing down the walls that divide our community. Since 1950, anyone entering Somerville from Boston and Cambridge has been greeted by an unwelcoming sight—and smell. That ends now.

Closing the waste facility and bringing it down is part of the solution to unlocking the economic potential both in this area and for our entire city, along with grounding McGrath and bringing the Green Line Extension to Somerville. Brickbottom used to be a thriving neighborhood until the incinerator drove nearly everyone out as it spewed ash and pollutants into the air. Starting with the demolition of the waste transfer station, we are taking the first step to making Brickbottom a thriving neighborhood and business district once again.

Unlocking the economic potential of this neighborhood is critical to helping us reach our shared SomerVision goals for the city to create 30,000 new jobs, 6,000 new housing units including 1,200 permanently affordable units, and to bring in new commercial tax revenues to fund our services and schools. As the areas around the former transfer station site evolve into regional employment centers, as new offices, homes and businesses take root here as part of a mixed-use and transit-oriented neighborhood, expanding our city’s tax base and alleviating the property tax burden on residents, it’ll be hard for us to ever remember that it wasn’t always like this.

There’s a short-term loss in revenue: $1 million in hauling and tipping fees, because trash now needs to be taken out of the city, and $500,000 in lost rent and royalty from Waste Management’s previous rental agreement with the city for the transfer station. But any short-term loss will return to us tenfold with the transformative redevelopment of Brickbottom. SomerVision identifies 52 buildable acres in Brickbottom, accounting for 15 percent of the city’s growth through the year 2030. That’s 1.6 million square feet of new commercial space and close to a million square feet of new residential space. That’s 4,500 new jobs and 750 new housing units. Creating this growth and reclaiming this neighborhood and reconnecting it with other neighborhoods, transforming it into a walkable, transit-oriented urban neighborhood that supports job creation with a mix of daytime and nighttime activity, will realize a far greater impact than $1.5 million.

This is how we do it in Somerville. We don’t lose out by only thinking about the short-term. We collect the data and facts, analyze carefully, and then invest patiently and prudently. We plan for the long-term.

Removing the transfer station is only part of the solution. I have stridently advocated healing the scar that runs through our city, McGrath Highway’s McCarthy Overpass. Our partners at MassDOT are doing their part. They’ve agreed to bring down that relic of the 1950s and create a boulevard for all forms of travel, including walking and biking, that reknits Union Square with Brickbottom and the Inner Belt. MassDOT’s Board recently approved nearly $400 million for the first phase of the Green Line Extension, which will bring a T station right around the corner from the former transfer station.

This is more than just a vision now. It’s real. We’re no longer just hoping to bring the Green Line to Somerville. We’re not just daydreaming of a boulevard replacing McGrath. We’re not just wishing this waste transfer station would disappear. We’re making it happen. We are building the future our community wants—all based on our SomerVision plan. With the transfer station coming down, the Green Line Extension coming in, and the grounding of McGrath in our sights, we are well on our way. So good riddance, transfer station. And hello to the new Brickbottom.


13 Responses to “Hello new Brickbottom, goodbye waste transfer station”

  1. Paul says:

    These changes are exactly what we need. All the naysayers will be astonished when they see how great that area becomes in the next couple decades. Just wish we could accelerate McGrath coming down.

  2. Seth says:

    Can you let us know about how the community is being involved with creating the vision for the new Brickbottom? This is exciting stuff!

  3. skeptical says:

    Bringing down McGrath? What happened when they brought down the elevated part of 38 by Sullivan and only left a surface road? They overloaded the rotary and now we have one of the largest clusterf***s around. I hope whoever is in charge of this project thinks it through very very well. Otherwise we will have a nightmare on our hands.

  4. MarketMan says:

    I hope the development in brickbottom more closely resembles the rest of Somerville, and not what is going up in Assembly. We don’t want or need another monstrocity of a housing development. We want managable human scale housing and commercial development. Normal 1-6 family houses with medium scale commercial intermixed. We want a *neighborhood*, not a shopping mall with apartments.

  5. Ed says:

    Why is the state rebuilding the overpass when there going to tear it down am i missing something here ?

  6. ritepride says:

    The mayor says …”we are taking the first step to making Brickbottom a thriving neighborhood and business district once again”. …We have all seen his “$omervi$ion” of not doing a thing for years to help the Winter Hill residents in getting a business into the Star Market site, he has been deterimental to their wishes. …
    If it is not on the Curtatone Development Group’$ per$onal priority li$t, then nothing will be done. The guy he put in charge of Capital Planning couldnt even pass the inspector’s test when he had the hack job in inspectional services. So the mayor promotes the guy to a job that should require a Master Degree. The long term results of the Curtatone Develoment Group$ actions will be the $mell with remain and never go away. The rat infestation into the neighborhoods will result in some innocent child being bitten by a rabid rat as a result of joe’s personal goal$ for him$elf and hi$ developer buddie$.

  7. ritepride says:

    ‘Ed’ asked….”Why is the state rebuilding the overpass when there going to tear it down”

    Because Ed the Cutatone Development & the gang on “Bacon Hill’ knows how to waste your tax dollar$. Underneath the area of the overpass structure stood, before it was built, trucking & repair garages that had underground tanks that were never removed (according to a retired city inspector)…so that will be added cost to your tax dollars as they will have to be removed now. Just part of your elected officials master plan to ANNIHILATE the middle class.

  8. Rob says:

    Ed, the state neglected McGrath for so long, that they felt like they had to do band-aid repairs until they had time to fully plan for its removal. I agree it doesn’t make much sense since the “Grounding McGrath” plan is due out any time, and they are still months away from finishing the band aid repairs.

    It seems to me like a classic case of throwing good money after bad. If the same money had been used to demolish all or part of the existing overpass, we would be half-way toward a new street. Instead, we will probably wait another 5-10 years and spend twice as much.

  9. Paul says:

    At a meeting 6 months or a year ago, a hundred or so people literally yelled at MASSDOT for spending money on the emergency repairs instead of just taking it down, but MASSDOT is insisting they need at least 10 years to “study” how to build an at grade road.

  10. A,Moore says:

    The problem is they don’t know how they are going to make the traffic pattern work. Which is why they built it in the first place. We had major gridlock all over before it was built. Now with more cars it is going to be tough to work it out. It will be easily 15 to 20 years before this gets done. After seeing it before and after it was built it is hard for me to imagine a way to make it work. But then I am not the expert on this. This is way more complicated than it looks. Since it gets some use of transporting people to Boston hospitals in emergencies we can’t afford to have this built without good planning if it can be done. Which is why they have to do the temporary repairs.

  11. Sophie says:

    The whole idea is ludicrous. It is called McGrath Highway for a reason. It is a major thoroughfare from Somerville to Boston. Drive on it at rush hour. As it is now, commuters can travel on the highway, keeping surface streets open and available for residents. If it were only a surface street it would be gridlock all the time. Residents would sit in traffic trying to get to the grocery store, school, etc., wasting time and gas. Also more and more side streets will begin to be used as cut-throughs. Be careful what you wish for.

  12. Rod Kreimeyer says:


  13. Boston Kate says:

    A.Moore – You may not be an expert, but you have common sense. I think that’s what is needed in certain situations, more than any lettered talking heads, to know the benefit of keeping/upgrading the McGrath overpass. Without it, it’s going to turn into another Sullivan Square bottleneck.

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