Boston Revitalization Project Moves Forward

A $1 billion plan will bring 2.3 million square feet of mixed-use, transit-oriented development to Somerville, Mass., over the next two decades.

By Gail Kalinoski

Construction on the first phase of a $1 billion mixed-use development plan in Union Square in Somerville, Mass., should begin next year now that the city’s Board of Aldermen has approved a rezoning plan for the project.

Aerial View
Union Square Site

The zoning approval, which took about three years with community input, sets the stage for the strategic, long-term growth of 2.3 million square feet of new mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the Boston suburb that will be part of a $2.3 billion extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line light rail system, according to Greg Karczewski, president of the Union Square Station Associates (US2) development team.

“Union Square’s proximity to Kendall Square, MIT and Harvard – one of the densest innovation centers in the world – makes it poised for the next wave of economic growth. We’re bringing 2.3 million square feet of new mixed-use, transit-oriented development to one of the hottest real estate markets. Somerville has great restaurants, historic neighborhoods, a distinctive creative culture and a young, educated workforce, making it one of the most up-and-coming cities in the U.S.,” Karczewski said in a prepared statement.

Phase One to Begin in 2018

US2 plans to make about $1 billion in investments over the next 15 to 20 years as the Union Square project is built out. Developed on 15.5 acres, plans call for about 1.38 million square feet of new office, lab, hotel, retail and arts spaces. The balance of the space will be residential development, including 20 percent set aside for affordable units. The developers are also committed to creating 25 percent green and civic spaces. Phase One, which should start in 2018 and be completed before the Green Line station in 2021, is expected to include about 400 housing units and 175,000 square feet of space for lab, office and retail uses.

“We’re really excited to implement the first phase of the development, which will unlock the potential of Union Square and bring the Green Line, new job opportunities, housing alternatives and pedestrian connections to the neighborhood, making it a more inviting place for workers and families,” Karczewski told Commercial Property Executive.

“Somerville residents and businesses are passionate about Union Square and that’s what made it such a great place to live and work. That same passion will drive the evolution of the square,” he added.

US2 plans to present its coordinated development plan for Union Square to the community in the next few months. The developers have already agreed to contribute $5.5 million to the Green Line project, part of $19.2 million in public benefit contributions US2 will provide. Somerville officials and US2 estimate the new development will generate more than $10 million in annual tax revenue and permitting fees. The development is also expected to create more than 5,000 new permanent jobs and 4,000 construction jobs.

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