Assembly Row Summer Series begins July 24

On July 20, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Assembly Row Summer Series is right around the corner, so get ready to have some fun in the sun – and the shade.

Assembly Row Summer Series is right around the corner, so get ready to have some fun in the sun – and the shade.

By Jeremy F. van der Heiden

Assembly Row is one of the hottest areas in Somerville today, as the shops and restaurants have already started to open and the new MBTA station is set to be functional within the next few months. While the attractions have already started to attract more Somervillians and others from neighboring towns, several events will likely send traffic soaring even higher.

The Design Museum Boston, along with the support of the Federal Realty Investment Trust, will be putting on a Summer Series that will have several events at Assembly Row. The first, a free event open to the public, will feature an urban design keynote from Vancouver-based writer Christine McLaren and will take place on July 24 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at 1 Assembly Row in the amphitheater.

McLaren was the lead researcher for Happy City, a forthcoming book by celebrated Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery, which hones in on the impact urban design has on the livelihood of those living in the areas. At the Urban Design Keynote next Thursday, July 24, McLaren will provide insights related to environmental issues and urban planning as they intersect with local populations.

All of the events will focus on this interaction between urban design and the community members living in these environments, making the brand new Assembly Row an exceptional venue for these types of discussions.

In an interview with The Somerville Times, Sam Aquillano, the co-founder and executive director of Design Museum Boston, affirmed that the developers involved in the creation and management of Assembly Row have had the proper mindset throughout the various stages that have taken place.

“We work with a lot of different developers and you do not hear the word ‘people’ a lot, it’s all about buildings and it’s not about the human-centered approach,” Aquillano explained. “I think that’s what I’ve heard a lot from the Federal Realty folks – how are people going to interact with the space – they know that it’s at a different scale than Somerville is used to … it is like building an entirely new neighborhood from scratch.”

He also pointed out that the developers have been specifically focused on street-level aspects of the environments along with the buildings themselves, helping to create a mixed-use space that can act as a central hub for commerce and the community itself.

As for the opening event for the Summer Series, Aquillano highlighted some of the reasons why Somervillians would want to come out and listen to McLaren’s keynote.

“She’s going to talk about how you can design a city to make people happier, and you’re going to be sitting in a new neighborhood that is being built to make people happy,” he added. “You’re in this context of a new neighborhood being built and designed, and you’ll have this presenter basically talking about the latest thinking and thought leadership behind designing cities.”

McLaren’s keynote speech will mark the start of the Design Museum Boston’s Assembly Row Summer Series, which will be followed up by a screening of The Human Scale, a Danish film that discusses urban area optimization on August 29 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. This event will also feature a live question and answer component conducted via Skype with the filmmaker.

The final event will be an Urban Design Panel that will thus far include senior urban designer and architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority Corey Zehngebot, Landscape Architect and Principal at Sasaki Gina Ford, Senior Vice President of Federal Realty Trust Don Briggs and Architecture and Design principal at ADD Inc. B.K. Boley. This will take place on September 25 at 6:30 p.m.

When asked why Somervillians should be interested in the design going into Assembly Row and other areas throughout the city, Aquillano said the following:

“From our perspective, our whole tagline is ‘design is everywhere,’ and it affects every aspect of our lives, from the design of our phones to the design of our buildings and neighborhoods. You might not be designing your neighborhood, but if you aren’t a part of that, someone is going to be making the decisions for you … we’re trying to educate people that everything around them is important to curate.”

All of the events at Assembly Row are free and open to the general public, while the Design Museum Boston is putting on several other events around the Boston area throughout the summer as well. More information about the series and the Design Museum Boston itself can be found through the organization’s main website,


18 Responses to “Assembly Row Summer Series begins July 24”

  1. PixiePocahontas says:

    Why would anyone wish to attend such a display of self-congratulatory, ad nauseam? Wouldn’t it be more well received by residents, visitors and taxpayers if they were allowed to hand in a free online survey of what they liked and didn’t like about the project? Oh, I forgot, that’s not the way they do things here, it’s more like– this is our decision whether you like it or not, now get yourself down here and tell us again how wonderful we are–frankly, we have enough of that already and guess what? The self praise and empty promises have gone on for too long and finally people are aware of the charades.

    Until you take care of the real issues facing our working class minority, these events mean nothing. The elderly, the children, working mom and dads who have no voice deserve better. There is a serious drug problem that has been ignored which needs work provided by more city officials. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, neither do the issues in our schools, elderly displacement and struggling families who have seen their hardworking pay checks go to the city and not towards the betterment of their lives.

    It’s a total insult to those who expect more from the city which they support and pledged their loyalty to remain. Don’t even bother to hold meetings if you plan to undermine the process of citizen involvement.

    These type of articles only serve to infuriate taxpayers and residents who give their time to attending meetings of substance which will decide on neighborhood changes to benefit all, not your friends in development.

    Find something meaningful to write about that would serve to benefit those who need positive allies in their struggles for affordable housing, overcoming addiction, demanding professionalism, integrity and respect by every member who works with and for our city.

    Until that time, please stop with the deception. You are more than happy to drive out the working class to be replaced by gentrification and shady development.

  2. ritepride says:

    Enjoy while you can cause once the resident base is aboard if you don’t live there you will be a trespasser.

  3. Matt C says:

    Ritepride, Its a shopping venue more than anything else. If you are worried try going to station landing in medford, walk around, try going into a shop and seeing how it feels. Assembly is the same thing at a greater scale. If you feel like an outsider at the nikestore or the AMC theater then there is likely not much that will change there.

  4. MC says:

    How anyone can call that development a “neighborhood” is beyond me. That’s what happens when suburbanites who grew up in shopping malls become planners and developers.

    I’m actually pretty fine with Somerville getting an expensive shopping mall full of sports-clothing shops. We need the tax base from the commercial development, and sticking a mall on the edge of town is a great way to get it. But calling an expensive apartment complex on top of a shopping mall a “neighborhood” is an insult to the idea of a neighborhood.

    No one who works any of the fine retail sales counter jobs created there will be able to live in that complex. You won’t get to know the barber or the young woman who opened up her salon on the corner, because if it’s not a chain store, there’s no way to afford to have a shop there.

    There is no place to pick up a roll of toilet paper– if you live in once of these $3,000 apartments maybe you don’t poop? There are no doctors, dentists, dry cleaners, chiropractors,… nor any plan to have any medical office facility development. Federal Reality provided exactly what they boast they have: “connections to major national retailers.” The restaurants there have so many TVs you never have to risk ever having a conversation or accidentally making eye-contact with anyone.

    Look, it’s an expensive shopping mall with even more expensive apartments plopped on top. Just call it what it is and we’re fine. But when you call it a neighborhood, it makes me think you forgot what one is.

  5. Truth says:

    MC, soon this will be the only neighborhood left in Somerville. All of the neighborhoods, and all of the blocks and all of the squares will be nothing more than shopping or dining destinations, filled with people who don’t stick around long enough to see the devastation.

  6. Boston Kate says:

    I’ve been down there at least once a week, since things opened up. I love it; it’s new, it’s pretty, it’s about time. Take a walk along the water and see the baby ducks; stop and get some ice cream; go to a movie. O

    (Ritepride – how do you come up with that crap? It’s a public area.)

  7. ritepride says:

    Wait n see Kate.

  8. it is what it is says:

    the answer is this is the new neighborhood–expensive, anonymous, hip, and no need to remember the names of your kindly neighbors or their children. No need to shovel your elderly neighbors walk. Just cool shopping and eating, and no worries

  9. Ron Newman says:

    While I agree that the area needs a pharmacy, you can buy toilet paper at both Staples and K-Mart.

  10. PixiePocahontas says:


    Your missing the point– overall consensus by those who don’t like the new project is because it doesn’t have any practical retail that is useful to working class folks. I don’t know what the problem is with putting in a moderate size CVS and small grocery store like Pembertons in N.Cambridge which was a real blessing during the last heaviest snowstorms.

    If renters choose to live in an urban village environment, isn’t it wise have some stores for last minute necessity? Or maybe if the techy crowd is paying $4100 for rent, they can have peapod deliveries from neighboring stop and shop several times a week, dine out everyday for every meal. When the financial district bonus makers and corporate lawyers are buying up all the condos and turning this place into an east coast San Francisco gentrified steamroller, no price for anything is too high. Has anyone noticed the triple trillion fraud banking war chest lately by corporate welfare recipients of 2009 market crash? Where’s Glass-Steagall when you need them?

    It’s just a weird layout, mirroring our neighborhoods– struggling working class moderately distressed housing vs. Martha’s Vineyard neon Victorian paint jobs and kmart/working class shopping vs. I really wanna be a Natick Mall.

    Let’s be real, this reminds me of the island of misfit toys, where we have too many Charlies-in-the-box, who don’t have a clue about redesigning an area which can generate badly needed commercial revenue we were promised three decades ago. Every idea they had in the past was a flop. When you have conflicting interests coupled with lack of vision, it’s just the same poor planning as before.

    I would have preferred a Natick Mall copy cat to be truthful than this hodge podge of shopping experience lacking true identity. In order to be truly successful, all establishments should compliment one another instead of dividing in contrast.

    Maybe it’s still a work in progress like our neighborhoods– see who survives and who is forced out. K-Marts 99 lease is just as bad as TABS deed which will give our non-profit neighbor the right to do what they choose in less than 3.

  11. Uncle Rocco says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Ron.
    Because if someone is going to be living in high style over at their new $2500 a month studio apartment, they’re going to be expecting the best. And like any good Somervillian knows, when it comes to toilet paper selection, K-Mart is THE BEST.

  12. Philb says:

    The assembly square mall that has been there for a long time has plenty of practical shops. And as someone who buys their clothes second hand I don’t see myself shopping at the new Assembly Row. But I might go to a movie or walk along the water. I agree a grocery store would be good there, though I’m not going to be a jerk about insisting one goes there. What about the devastation when Somerville was a crime filled dump? Car theft capital? Unfriendly to outsiders who weren’t of the same ethnic origin (some of the posters here are still unfriendly to outsiders)? Yes more people knew their neighbors, but it wasn’t that swell overall.

  13. A. Moore says:

    Wrong Rocco. The paper has to come from organic trees grown with no antibiotics and recycled.

  14. Truth says:

    A lot of people are praising Assembly Square because they can ‘walk along the water’. Why did it take an expenisive development full of yuppies to do that? Are you that insulated that you didn’t know the water was always there?
    Car theft capital? Wait till there is an orange line station there right in amongst the high-end condo owners and their cars.

  15. Ron Newman says:

    The Assembly Row development has greatly improved the riverfront park, and added a pedestrian/bike underpass below Route 28, so that you can get to Ten Hills without having to cross the Fellsway.

  16. Truth says:

    Yes, and they have pushed out long-time businesses, and are trying desperately to push out the Winter Hill Yacht Club.

  17. Scooby Doo says:

    It’s not like they just dumped a mall right under your nose. It’s on the edge of the city on what was mostly wasteland. You don’t have to go through it to get anywhere so if you don’t like the types of stores and restaurants it has or the yuppies who will live there, then you can easily avoid them. Just be grateful for the boost to city tax revenues. (Yes, yes, I know… we won’t see any benefit.. it’s all to line the pickets of Joe and his develop buddies etc etc)

  18. PixiePocahontas says:

    Hopefully the new train station won’t attract undesirables like Davis Square. Someone should tell the self anointed princess of W6 to clean up the stench of urine on the bike path next to the station. Time for the portapotties to be emptied, there are puddles of urine pedestrians and bikes are passing through. A real disgusting mess.

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