Somerville Developments

bluishgreen

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Not sure if the building where Dragon Pizza is located would also be part of it.
Dragon Pizza has a different facade from Martsa, but from the overhead view, it looks like it is part of the same building.

I wonder if they just intend to build on top somehow? If they are truly planning to do many future projects in the area, and want to maintain a good relationship with locals, including gov't (esp. after already upsetting some people in the Fenway area with their first proposal), it would seem really naive to just walk into a neighborhood and propose to blow away almost an entire block of their well-liked businesses. It's not like this is blight. From a business strategy point of view, it would seem like shooting themselves in the foot for future projects.

Sligo and McKinnon's are two of the last older establishments there, and to some degree the Burren too, although that was one of first places of the "new" Davis that rose in the 90's after the T station opened. I remember the Burren's opening shortly after moving there in the mid-90's, and then the Joshua Tree across the street not long after, and then it just steamrolled. Then the legendary, post-last-call Dolly's closed a few years later, which I lived near.
 

Equilibria

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This would be a pretty big blow to Davis. I'm all for adding housing to the neighborhood, especially on some of the underutilized parcels around the square, but the loss of these businesses would kill a lot of the neighborhoods character. If the article is accurate, it's at least everything from the Burren to Martsa on Elm. Not sure if the building where Dragon Pizza is located would also be part of it. I realize the architectural contributions of these one story low-rises is insignificant, but it's still urban and the businesses there will be tough to replace.
I doubt this stands much chance of happening, because I doubt a single person in Somerville will even be neutral on it. They'd need City approval, and I don't see how they'll get it.

These guys are from London, and they don't know what they've gotten themselves in to.
 

DZH22

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Student housing directly in Davis Square makes literally 0 sense at all. Tufts isn't THAT close. Lesley/Harvard aren't THAT close. I have no idea what the end-game is here.
 

lexicon506

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These guys are from London, and they don't know what they've gotten themselves in to.
They better watch it or they'll end up spending millions and not getting anything built to show for it. I'm starting to wonder if they have anyone who knows Boston advising them? Cause buying up a block of local businesses in one of the city's most beloved neighborhoods to put up a student warehouse is NOT a winning strategy.
 

DrFreewind

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They're probably going to jack up the rent so they can say "theyre leaving on their own accord!"
 

Vagabond

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Student housing directly in Davis Square makes literally 0 sense at all. Tufts isn't THAT close. Lesley/Harvard aren't THAT close. I have no idea what the end-game is here.
Scape is looking for optimal locations in Greater Boston for student housing. Fenway (where the other Scape development is) and the Red Line are both extremely high markets for student populations, there are a ton students living in multifamily homes (specifically 3+BR), and housing availability and affordability have been the top local political topic recently. This services Tufts + Harvard + MIT + Lesley, especially short-term grad student populations with a little extra cash who don't want to live in the unrenovated, no-AC, no W/D duplexes that requires an absurd Broker fee to rent. Not sure about Somerville code, but I'm guessing a dorm probably won't require much/any parking either.

I love the Davis vibe, and so do students. Wouldn't be surprised if they buy a big parcel in Porter too. There's no shortage of available students. You can't pretend this isn't a great investment for them.

That all said, I finish up my Guinness and leave the Burren right about 8PM once the students show up.
 
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Lrfox

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Scape is looking for optimal locations in Greater Boston for student housing. Fenway and the Red Line are both underserved markets for student populations. There are a ton students living in multifamily homes (specifically 3+BR), and housing availability and affordability have been the top topic. This services Tufts + Harvard + MIT + Lesley, especially short-term grad student populations with a little extra cash who don't want to live in the unrenovated, no-AC, no W/D duplexes that requires an absurd Broker fee to rent. Not sure about Somerville code, but I'm guessing a dorm probably won't require much/any parking either.

I love the Davis vibe, and so do students. Wouldn't be surprised if they buy a big parcel in Porter too. There's no shortage of available students. You can't pretend this isn't a great investment for them.

That all said, I finish up my Guinness and leave the Burren right about 8PM once the students show up.
I don't question the investment. It's a good one and they've done some of their homework. And as much as I'd like to believe that fierce opposition could stop this one, I'm not sure that's the case. My personal gripe is the loss of the businesses occupying the buildings, not the loss of the buildings themselves. Like most of Davis, this stretch manages to be an excellent urban space without being an architectural wonder. You can't oppose this on the grounds that it would be replacing something historic or significant.

And because the tenants are the reason for opposing this, it wouldn't be hard for SCAPE to push them out by raising rents to a point where continuing to do business isn't sustainable.

I'm not sure what the residents and the city can legally do. I'd embrace a similar project on any of the open lots on Grove St., the lots by Flatbread/Sacco, a full replacement of Rite Aid, a teardown of Dominos, etc. But losing the current businesses between The Burren and Dragon would be a really tough pill to swallow.

I'll obviously wait to see the plans before hurtling myself off the cliff/going full Ned Flaherty; but if they involve pushing the current tenants out/leveling these storefronts I'll be attending my first development meetings as a project opponent. That's a weird position to be in.
 

whighlander

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In the Curbed article about the Scape/Davis Square sitch, they mention that they didn't outright buy the land and instead acquired a 99 year ground lease? Is this a common practice in the Boston area? I'm curious why they'd do that as opposed to just buying the land outright?
This a frequent practice if a governmental entity [e.g. Massport, City of Sommerville, etc.], or a not for profit / charitable entity such as Tufts, Arch Diocese of Boston, MFA, etc., owns the actual title to the land and doesn't want to sell it -- but has no current need for the land and so lets a developer do the building and pay for the use of the land.

The most prominent example recently was the "Sale" of Faneuil Hall / Quincy Market to a retail-type developer who is revamping things and can then lease the revamped spaces to tenants until the City of Boston wants the land and buildings back

I'm guessing in Davis that the T is the owner of the land in question -- the T most likely acquired it from a railroad or otherwise when they needed it during construction of the Davis T Station and the extension on to Alewife. Although, since its close to Tufts campus that's another possible owner.
 

George_Apley

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I don't question the investment. It's a good one and they've done some of their homework. And as much as I'd like to believe that fierce opposition could stop this one, I'm not sure that's the case. My personal gripe is the loss of the businesses occupying the buildings, not the loss of the buildings themselves. Like most of Davis, this stretch manages to be an excellent urban space without being an architectural wonder. You can't oppose this on the grounds that it would be replacing something historic or significant.

And because the tenants are the reason for opposing this, it wouldn't be hard for SCAPE to push them out by raising rents to a point where continuing to do business isn't sustainable.

I'm not sure what the residents and the city can legally do. I'd embrace a similar project on any of the open lots on Grove St., the lots by Flatbread/Sacco, a full replacement of Rite Aid, a teardown of Dominos, etc. But losing the current businesses between The Burren and Dragon would be a really tough pill to swallow.

I'll obviously wait to see the plans before hurtling myself off the cliff/going full Ned Flaherty; but if they involve pushing the current tenants out/leveling these storefronts I'll be attending my first development meetings as a project opponent. That's a weird position to be in.
The freak-out over the "lost businesses" was premature. There was never any indication that the ground-floor occupants would be forced out except for a (reasonable) fear that this would happen. As soon as this announced so many people were acting as though Burren, Sligo, McKinnon's, etc. were already gone.

This is a good opportunity to talk about policy, like cheap municipal loans to small businesses to allow them to survive temporary closure due to redevelopment.
 

Lrfox

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The freak-out over the "lost businesses" was premature. There was never any indication that the ground-floor occupants would be forced out except for a (reasonable) fear that this would happen. As soon as this announced so many people were acting as though Burren, Sligo, McKinnon's, etc. were already gone.

This is a good opportunity to talk about policy, like cheap municipal loans to small businesses to allow them to survive temporary closure due to redevelopment.
I don't know. I think it's a pretty reasonable reaction. I'm still pretty skeptical about how SCAPE proposes to build here and keep the businesses from leaving. If they stand any change of having local support, they HAVE to say that. Sligo is saying that they believe they'll be directly affected, talking about "enjoying the time they have left." So I think the response was and is warranted.

I agree though, it is a good opportunity to talk about policy and how to support small businesses through development, construction, etc. I wonder what the city is doing for the businesses over in Ball Square with Broadway shut down? I've walked through a few times and I know they're hurting.
 

Equilibria

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The freak-out over the "lost businesses" was premature. There was never any indication that the ground-floor occupants would be forced out except for a (reasonable) fear that this would happen. As soon as this announced so many people were acting as though Burren, Sligo, McKinnon's, etc. were already gone.

This is a good opportunity to talk about policy, like cheap municipal loans to small businesses to allow them to survive temporary closure due to redevelopment.
The problem is that for businesses on the margin like Sligo, the only way to keep them in place is to do nothing at all and keep the buildings and the street frozen in time, often with owners that charge below-market rents. Sligo also benefits from a crappy space, since that's part of the character. Even if Scape were to give the owners of Sligo a space in the new building, it wouldn't be the same.
 

George_Apley

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The problem is that for businesses on the margin like Sligo, the only way to keep them in place is to do nothing at all and keep the buildings and the street frozen in time, often with owners that charge below-market rents. Sligo also benefits from a crappy space, since that's part of the character. Even if Scape were to give the owners of Sligo a space in the new building, it wouldn't be the same.
True. But unless we go hog-wild with historical preservation designations, dives like Sligo aren't going to stick around forever. Does it mean that Davis is becoming "soulless" if places like Sligo disappear or are sanitized? I don't know. That's kind of a subjective opinion. Is Sligo of today really the Sligo of 30 years ago anyway? Is freezing a building in time really protecting a business from the cultural changes going on around it? Once a dive bar achieves museum status, is it really a dive bar anymore?
 

Equilibria

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True. But unless we go hog-wild with historical preservation designations, dives like Sligo aren't going to stick around forever. Does it mean that Davis is becoming "soulless" if places like Sligo disappear or are sanitized? I don't know. That's kind of a subjective opinion. Is Sligo of today really the Sligo of 30 years ago anyway? Is freezing a building in time really protecting a business from the cultural changes going on around it? Once a dive bar achieves museum status, is it really a dive bar anymore?
I haven't been there in a year or so, but I wouldn't call the 2019 version of Sligo a "museum". It's pretty grungy, and the bar has more buttcracks than fedoras.
 

bigpicture7

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I love how discussions on aB about business tenant displacement always turn into an existential debate about whether Sligo is great/historic/important or shitty/over-glamorized.

It's like Boston's entire tortured identity crisis/evolution is embodied by Sligo.
*sigh*
 

George_Apley

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I haven't been there in a year or so, but I wouldn't call the 2019 version of Sligo a "museum". It's pretty grungy, and the bar has more buttcracks than fedoras.
Absolutely, I meant museum in the "it must stay the same because it must stay the same" sense, not that the business has gentrified.
 

bluishgreen

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The freak-out over the "lost businesses" was premature. There was never any indication that the ground-floor occupants would be forced out except for a (reasonable) fear that this would happen. As soon as this announced so many people were acting as though Burren, Sligo, McKinnon's, etc. were already gone.

This is a good opportunity to talk about policy, like cheap municipal loans to small businesses to allow them to survive temporary closure due to redevelopment.
That's kind of what I was wondering before -- whether they were just thinking of building over it or in piecemeal in some way without replacing, or at least without replacing in entirety. It didn't seem that a company that's been doing this for awhile now, with experience in dealing with communities in multiple countries, would be that oblivious and naive, and just walk-in with a scorched Earth plan.
 

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