Union Square Somerville Infill and Small Developments

Ruairi

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I honestly don't think there's anything that can be done for people who basically choose to close their imagination and dwell only on construction dust instead of what's being created.
I agree, I bought here because of the vision and I think it's going to be great, eventually! I just wonder about the speed and handling of the process. I think there'll be a huge push on developing Boynton yards and Union will be left as a bit of a mess for a long time. I hope I'm wrong.
 

Equilibria

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This is a residents' vision problem, not a city's planning problem--and an opportunity for people with vision to buy in at a moment when the people without vision are despairing.

I bought my first condo in the 2000 bubble without a bidding war because it was still in demolition (partial-gut rehab of 2-flat into 2 condos). I could read plans and see how awesome it'd be when done, while all other buyers were freaked out at the sight of bare studs and piles of splintered lath and plaster crumbles. Their loss.

I honestly don't think there's anything that can be done for people who basically choose to close their imagination and dwell only on construction dust instead of what's being created.
I have to argue with a couple of these points - it's not an issue of vision if developers don't buy in to the square right away. Ruairi is right in that it will be much more attractive to develop the large-lot Boynton Yards area than it will be to work in the square, where you'll have engaged neighbors and smaller buildings. It will get done in the end, but Union Square itself is going to see a fair amount of construction traffic and dust without much payoff for a number of years.

Also, it's all well-and-good to talk about "vision" when you don't have to live there. It's an argument that works great in the Seaport, where basically nobody lives who didn't buy in there on purpose halfway through. Union is an established neighborhood, and while people have been engaged in this process, it's still up to a decade waiting for completion of projects that essentially comprise your village center.

You can believe in the good that's coming, but by year 3 of a 10-year build it would start to wear on anyone, particularly given how many Union Square residents move without cars (or will start to once the station opens).
 

Arlington

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You can believe in the good that's coming, but by year 3 of a 10-year build it would start to wear on anyone, particularly given how many Union Square residents move without cars (or will start to once the station opens).
Why "particularly" ? If they moved there for the GLX, suffer without it now, but get it when it opens, isn't that *exactly* one of those vision-now, payoff-when-it-opens things?

Lather, rinse, repeat on every other new thing coming.

I'm not saying it is pleasant (certainly not as pleasant as moving to a "done" Assembly Square), but I am saying it is exactly what is asked of people who live in a place "on the come", and for many, exactly why they came.
 

Equilibria

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Why "particularly" ? If they moved there for the GLX, suffer without it now, but get it when it opens, isn't that *exactly* one of those vision-now, payoff-when-it-opens things?

Lather, rinse, repeat on every other new thing coming.

I'm not saying it is pleasant (certainly not as pleasant as moving to a "done" Assembly Square), but I am saying it is exactly what is asked of people who live in a place "on the come", and for many, exactly why they came.
I say "particularly" because if you commute from Union using the station you'll be walking through the construction site twice a day.

You seem to be talking about moving there in 2015 and having to wait until the station opens in 2017. I'm talking about moving there in 1985 and having to sit through construction that will take several local businesses until the final structure (or public space) opens to great fanfare in 2025 (I realize they said 2019 in the presentation - I do not believe them).
 

Ruairi

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You seem to be talking about moving there in 2015 and having to wait until the station opens in 2017. I'm talking about moving there in 1985 and having to sit through construction that will take several local businesses until the final structure (or public space) opens to great fanfare in 2025 (I realize they said 2019 in the presentation - I do not believe them).
I think Arlington's point may have been directed at someone more like me, who only moved to the square in 2013. And yea, I get that I need to keep an open mind about the future, It's more a case of questioning the process. I thought the process might be more focused on the square and not Boynton however, it seems US2 need Boynton to work before Union can be transformed. I agree with Equilibria. I think there's another 10 years of disruption ahead in the square and I think even the most open minded, forward thinking of residents might find that hard to handle.
 

Arlington

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I'm talking about moving there in 1985 and having to sit through construction that will take several local businesses until the final structure (or public space) opens to great fanfare in 2025 (I realize they said 2019 in the presentation - I do not believe them).
So, bascially, you're catastrophizing, chosing a worst-case duration and a worst case location (as if it'll follow everyone for every trip in any direction)

If it really does "take" until 2025, then there are going to be long stretches with no construction at all, in which case its impossible that you'll be walking through construction for 10 years.

It's like radiation: It can't be both intense and last a long time. If intense, it'll be short. If long, it'll be so because it isn't intense. But somehow you're characterizing it as both intense and long-lived. How?

While there will be construction *somewhere* for the next 5 - 10 years, it is virtually impossible that it'll squat on any one person's commute for that entire time.

It's either going to rotate from site to site, a building at a time, inconveniencing any one "quadrant" or walk-to-GLX and be drawn out (but not "everywhere at once"), or its going to be "everywhere at once" but, if so, it can't last 10 years.
 

bigeman312

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It's like radiation: It can't be both intense and last a long time. If intense, it'll be short. If long, it'll be because it isn't intense. But somehow you're characterizing it as both intense and long-lived. How?
See: Quincy Center.

I hope this doesn't happen here!
 

George_Apley

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Another point on residents' "vision" or lack thereof; one can move to Union excited about its "up and coming" future and then, in a year or two, become very attached to the square as exists. I know that for myself (as a resident more or less in the thick of it), I am excited for the square's future, but also saddened to be losing business institutions that I've grown to love and appreciate since living here. Ricky's Flowers, for example - which will be Eminent Domain'd. It definitely isn't the best use of that location going forward, but it is a cherished local business at all times of the year). Also newer businesses that are getting off the ground in the "transition era" but have an uncertain future due to redevelopment and cost uncertainty - such as Ebi Sushi, or Union Square Donuts, for example. It's human nature to become apprehensive about upheaval, even when the change is welcome.
 

Arlington

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See: Quincy Center.

I hope this doesn't happen here!
Folks, we lived through (commuted through) the Big Dig. It wasn't as nice as a finished Greenway, but it wasn't that every sidewalk was torn up at once for the whole time, but rather that there was always a sidewalk somewhere being torn up, but never "yours" all the time for 10 years. Sometimes your sidewalk. Sometimes your South Station Red Line stairs, or elevator, or lobby, or street, or Summer St bridge, but not always construction everywhere.
 

George_Apley

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Don't let the power of Loss Aversion cause you to forego the big upside gains of redeveloping Union Square.
I don't. But the instinct is there nevertheless. It's an innate fear the unknown that can be overcome - if one is supportive of the end goal. It's easy to see how otherwise rational people end up falling under that aversion's gaze and become conservative NIMBYs.
 

Equilibria

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If it really does "take" until 2025, then there are going to be long stretches with no construction at all, in which case its impossible that you'll be walking through construction for 10 years.
What exactly are you calling "construction"? I work in a building that will have actual construction behind it for the next several years. Periodically, the building shakes violently. When they are pile-driving, it shakes more. This has been going on since the fall, and it won't stop until 2018 or so. That's pretty continuous and pretty bad.

But that's not really what I was talking about. As Busses mentioned, there's going to be a lot of eminent domain going on, and a number of other sites will be purchased. Businesses will, in some cases, close well before the structure is actually demolished. Once the structure is demolished, that's not a guarantee that construction will start anytime soon (see Franklin, One).

Basically, unless this is run exceptionally well by Somerville, you're going to have empty storefonts and vacant lots for periods of years while land sales occur, approvals are gained, and financing is secured (all of which will have to be done individually for each site). That's before the 1-2 years it takes to actually build the site. During all of that time, the square is diminished for its residents. This isn't a huge problem in the Seaport or at Assembly, because it's only positive - there wasn't anything there to lose. Somerville's city government seems to be on top of this, but you run the risk with large-scale projects like this that you could tear everything down, and then the boom ends and you're left with a bombed-out square until things pick back up again.

That's a worst-case scenario, yes, but it's also not an unlikely scenario.
 

Arlington

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What exactly are you calling "construction"? I work in a building that will have actual construction behind it for the next several years. Periodically, the building shakes violently. When they are pile-driving, it shakes more. This has been going on since the fall, and it won't stop until 2018 or so. That's pretty continuous and pretty bad.
Again, its like you're taking the very worst moments--pile-driving (something that's only done in the first weeks of construction)--and moaning about it as if that's what's going to last until 2018.

Post again when the nonstop vibration and noise of caulking hits.

I've had a 6-story condo building being built outside my office window for the last 3 years, and yeah, sometimes they're dumping construction waste into a dumpster 30' from my (open) window, and I have to close it, or 1 day they ran a loud diesel pump and another a loud generator. I called the phone on the truck and they shut it off. So while memorable (and awful) mostly it was no louder than cement pouring, seams being taped, windows being inserted and exterior panels being fastened. No big whoop. Interior work was imperceptible given that the exterior was on before it started.
 

Equilibria

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Again, its like you're taking the very worst moments--pile-driving (something that's only done in the first weeks of construction)--and moaning about it as if that's what's going to last until 2018.

Post again when the nonstop vibration and noise of caulking hits.

I've had a 6-story condo building being built outside my office window for the last 3 years, and yeah, sometimes they're dumping construction waste into a dumpster 30' from my (open) window, and I have to close it, or 1 day they ran a loud diesel pump and another a loud generator. I called the phone on the truck and they shut it off. So while memorable (and awful) mostly it was no louder than cement pouring, seams being taped, windows being inserted and exterior panels being fastened. No big whoop. Interior work was imperceptible given that the exterior was on before it started.
You're fixated on the wrong part of my post, but since you are... the floor under my desk has been shaking the whole time I've been writing this. Pile driving ended in February.

To sum up my actual point: This is an urban renewal, "blow up the neighborhood" sort of a project. Those do not have a 100% success rate, and they rarely result in the immediate transition to utopia that's billed in the brochures.
 

CSTH

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Sure it could be awful in execution, but it would be awful in spite of best intentions—and I do mean best. Jeff Speck's vision of vibrant, livable streets is what Somerville is pursuing.
Right on...everything i've seen look great, and i didn't mean to suggest otherwise...was just trying to frame the discussion a bit..
 

Morifen

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cden4

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Re: McGrath -- What I really want to see is what the traffic volumes are today vs what they were 10 years ago vs what the CTPS model predicted 10 years ago for what they would be today. Is the model accurate or is it overestimating?
 

Morifen

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Workbar is moving into the old Elegant Furniture building. I'm glad, since that building looks like it needs serious updating & I like what Workbar has done at their other locations. This also explains US2's earlier call for artists to decorate the space, since US2 & Workbar are partnering in this.

http://www.betaboston.com/news/2015/06/15/workbar-to-open-up-a-new-location-in-union-square/

Also, anyone know what the story is with New Asia Restaurant? That place has been empty forever.
 
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CantabAmager

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Re: McGrath -- What I really want to see is what the traffic volumes are today vs what they were 10 years ago vs what the CTPS model predicted 10 years ago for what they would be today. Is the model accurate or is it overestimating?
Check out the Boston MPO's Average Daily Traffic app. It used to work at least, today when I tried the map function was MIA, but the counts are there. Go to "Submit New Query", select "Somerville" from the town drop-down menu and then select "28" for some stats on traffic counts. Here are some highlights:

(Not McGrath but) counts at the intersection of 28 and Cambridge St peaked in 1995 at about 46000 vehicles (up from 39k in 1988, the earliest data point I can find), by 2006 it was down to about 32.7k. North of Cross St registered about 50k in 1994 (compare to 40k down in Cambridge the same year) but I cant find new counts. North of Broadway put in 49k in 1994, slightly north from that point just south of 38EB registered 65k the year after. South of Broadway registered 39K in 2006. So I think the numbers are trending down, but there isn't enough that I can find (yet) that would indicate just how much and if it's more than a blip.
 

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