SOMERVILLE, MA, April 24, 2014 – Concerned over the pace of the Union Square redevelopment process, organizations, residents and local businesses have been organizing: circulating talking points, a petition and lists of priorities.
Meetings related to the Union Square redevelopment have been public, and many documents – including the Union Square Development Plan and the Somervision plan, both finalized in 2012 – are available online. But many individuals, groups and associations have expressed concern at the manner and pace of decision-making.
At an April 9 meeting of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) – the committee that is recommending the master developer for the billion-dollar development of the Square – a group of associations spearheaded by the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) presented the 20 members with a document called “Link Somerville Equity Standards.”
“We think that this document can be really valuable as you consider the different bidders for the Union Square redevelopment proposal,” SCC Community Planner Mashael Majid told the CAC.
“We heard from a lot of business owners and local residents that they are not aware of what’s going on, and that when they did hear about the redevelopment process, they think it’s moving too quickly,” Majid later explained to the Somerville Neighborhood News.
The document suggests “standards” which include the request that 30 percent of new jobs go to Somerville residents, that 20 to 35 percent of new housing units are “permanently affordable,” and that the master developer and the city “keep and add local businesses.”
Local business owners have also been meeting. A few dozen have attended meetings facilitated by an MIT City Planning student, Maggie Tishman.
“We’d like to create an alliance to see if we can get more input about what’s going on,” said Robert Rendon of Cantina Mexicana.
The group came up with a petition that requests small business owners be kept informed, protected from “excessive rent increase and property tax increase” and that they have “significant representation in the decision-making process.”
Planned for over a decade, last summer the city decided to hire a master developer to oversee the planning, building and leasing and/or sale in seven “development blocks,” including areas that may be taken by eminent domain. Final responsibility for choosing the master developer lies with the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA), with advice from a 20-member CAC. All of the members of the CAC, and four of the five members of the SRA, were named by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.
Earlier this month, the CAC whittled the original list of nine developers down to four. The SRA is expected to choose one developer from those four by early May.