Tag: Bow St

Comment Letter Re: Union Square Redevelopment 15889

Comment Letter Re: Union Square Redevelopment 15889

August 21, 2018

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office, Analyst Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Re: Union Square Redevelopment 15889

Dear Secretary Beaton,

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposal for Phase I of the Union Square Redevelopment in Somerville. We offer our comments on the pedestrian issues associated with this project.

Our comments focus on the general approach, open space in the initial development and the pedestrian connections between the new station and the older portions of Union Square.

The project in general
WalkBoston is excited about the generous inclusion of elements in this project that will enhance and encourage pedestrian movement throughout the area. In addition, the process leading to this proposal seems to have been handled well by the city, its residents and the proponent. We enthusiastically support the request for a Phase I waiver.

This proposal is exciting, as it marks the beginning of a larger project that will transform Union Square. The 3.5 acre site with the proposed initial buildings will be the beginning of a concentration of development around the upcoming Union Square Green Line station which it directly abuts. The buildings are intended to be the first link between the new transit station and the existing intensive uses in what is traditionally known as Union Square, which begins at the intersection of Somerville Avenue and Prospect Street and extends toward Bow Street.

Open Space
Although the initial pedestrian connections are located on only one side of Prospect Street, they will bring about extensive change to this appearance of this old industrial street. The open space lining the east side of Prospect Street is an elongated triangle, the base of which is a wide entrance to the new transit station. The triangle extends north, narrowing to become a traditional sidewalk as it nears Somerville Avenue. The promise of this space lies in the proponent’s encouraging intentions to add extensive plantings and large trees in 15,000 square feet of open, publicly accessible civic space with 500 linear feet of seating options. The design of the space could result in pedestrians being enveloped in the space and not noticing that the other side of the street is not quite as handsome – an effective way to energize the space until development occurs around it.

The space is to be available to be programmed for a variety of activities. Transit connections from the Green Line Extension as well as a dedicated bus lane on Prospect Street will lead to substantial pedestrian density and transit interactions to support the beginning of prosperity for this new development district.

Pedestrian connections
The proposal calls for two tall buildings at each end of the site: a 25-story building marking the portion of the site closest to the transit station and a 10-story building marking the end of the site at Somerville Avenue. A six-story link between the two taller buildings will include a parking garage plus residences. A total of 450 residences will be included.

The northernmost building at the corner of Somerville Avenue and Prospect Street will be primarily commercial office or lab units located above first-floor retail spaces. Retail spaces continue along Prospect Street, lining the pedestrian way between the transit station and Somerville Avenue. A unique feature is the intention of the proponent to provide 13,000 square feet of space for Arts and Creative Enterprise (ACE) space, defined as live/work units, fabrication or maker space, co-working or other arts programming. The proponent’s intention is based on encouraging a creative economy to thrive in the midst of an embryonic urban employment center. ACE space can be especially attractive to pedestrians, and enliven the ground-floor uses of the proposed new buildings.

Of particular interest to pedestrian advocates, and not fully explained in the documentation on Phase I of the project, is the intention of the developer for the space that separates the 10-story building at the north end of the site and the remainder of the structures to the south. This looks on the plan like a street, but is quite narrow. No intersection for vehicular traffic is indicated by the plan to allow a physical roadway between this street and Prospect Street; such a connection would cross the wide pedestrian spaces lining Prospect Street and would seem to be potentially annoying and disruptive to pedestrian flows along Prospect Street. This street contrasts with others intended to serve vehicles, which are clearly aligned to the rear of the proposed buildings and do not interfere with the proposed pedestrian way along Prospect Street. The proponent should clarify the purpose and potential uses of this thoroughfare.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director