US2 Redevelopment | Union Square | Somerville

Equilibria

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So that tall building was approved there? Damn
I'm confused as to where this stands on design review. I check the Somerville planning website daily, and I never saw this come up (US has come up before, so I know it could). They definitely approved the massing of this building some time ago, but there should also be design documents on the City's site.

On the other hand, SomervillebyDesign (where these drawings are from) is a different City website, so these do have credibility.
 

Texasian

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USQ has since posted neighborhood meeting notes with updated renders. They've broken up the facade a bit on the tower. What I'm most excited about, though, is that they're paying attention to the station plaza as civic space for the neighborhood and not just folks getting to the station.

Also looks like the architects for this are the same folks responsible for the Collier memorial and the DTX plaza right by Millennium Tower. One of the principals also used to be MIT's Architecture department head and now heads up Cornell's department.
 

Equilibria

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USQ has since posted neighborhood meeting notes with updated renders. They've broken up the facade a bit on the tower. What I'm most excited about, though, is that they're paying attention to the station plaza as civic space for the neighborhood and not just folks getting to the station.

Also looks like the architects for this are the same folks responsible for the Collier memorial and the DTX plaza right by Millennium Tower. One of the principals also used to be MIT's Architecture department head and now heads up Cornell's department.
That's an amazingly detailed set of slides. Liked the tall building better before - it made more of a statement with a flat top - but I also get that the mechanicals would have been visible. I don't think I've ever seen a developer present on the aesthetics of mechanical penthouses at a public meeting before, so kudos for that. The building has lost some of its cohesive statement, though.

The ground-level changes seem to all be good.
 

Ruairi

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Usually I'm all for development but I'm not loving this.
Seems to totally miss what's good about union.
Some of it smacks of laziness. 'we need some green space to be in compliance, lets just set the building back a bit from the street and put in some plantings - we can call it Union Plaza!'
I'll miss the nice Boston skyline view from Prospect hill. I think dwarfing prospect hill with a dopey looking monolith shows a lack of respect for the history of the area.
Yea, lazy and lacking imagination, this is not empty rail yards or some super fund wasteland, this is a residential community.
The march of progress I suppose.
 

Equilibria

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Usually I'm all for development but I'm not loving this.
Seems to totally miss what's good about union.
Some of it smacks of laziness. 'we need some green space to be in compliance, lets just set the building back a bit from the street and put in some plantings - we can call it Union Plaza!'
I'll miss the nice Boston skyline view from Prospect hill. I think dwarfing prospect hill with a dopey looking monolith shows a lack of respect for the history of the area.
Yea, lazy and lacking imagination, this is not empty rail yards or some super fund wasteland, this is a residential community.
The march of progress I suppose.
I think that ship sailed years ago when they approved the master plan. Also, I don't quite agree with your characterization of their open space. The PPT has a very detailed record of how they designed it to make pedestrian access to the station as easy as possible from all sides. Not saying it's perfect, but it's not lazy - it's heavy, heavily purposeful.
 

Ruairi

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I think that ship sailed years ago when they approved the master plan. Also, I don't quite agree with your characterization of their open space. The PPT has a very detailed record of how they designed it to make pedestrian access to the station as easy as possible from all sides. Not saying it's perfect, but it's not lazy - it's heavy, heavily purposeful.
Perhaps lazy was a bit rash but I don't think it's a plaza.
I don't see anyone seeking out this space for recreational purposes.
 

JumboBuc

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Perhaps lazy was a bit rash but I don't think it's a plaza.
I don't see anyone seeking out this space for recreational purposes.
Porter Square is a great example of a T station plaza that has no purpose. It's just a "plaza" for the sake of being a plaza; nobody really uses it for anything.
 

Equilibria

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Perhaps lazy was a bit rash but I don't think it's a plaza.
I don't see anyone seeking out this space for recreational purposes.
I don't either, but some of that is just for marketing. There will be a cafe/restaurant opening onto it (unlike at Porter), and people waiting for the GL or for someone riding the GL would sit there. Many, many times I've awkwardly leaned against rocks and posts at GL stations.
 

Ruairi

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I don't either, but some of that is just for marketing. There will be a cafe/restaurant opening onto it (unlike at Porter), and people waiting for the GL or for someone riding the GL would sit there. Many, many times I've awkwardly leaned against rocks and posts at GL stations.
Yea, that's just it, it's marketing. I remember watching the presentations of the companies in the bidding process for this project. They all promised the sun, moon, and stars. I guess I just expected more, much more. This whole thing could go anywhere in greater Boston. Looks like they're missing an opportunity to create a real sense of place. But, as you say, the ship has sailed. It'll be a sad day when they push out Rickys flower market and tear down his converted gas station.
 

Equilibria

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Yea, that's just it, it's marketing. I remember watching the presentations of the companies in the bidding process for this project. They all promised the sun, moon, and stars. I guess I just expected more, much more. This whole thing could go anywhere in greater Boston. Looks like they're missing an opportunity to create a real sense of place. But, as you say, the ship has sailed. It'll be a sad day when they push out Rickys flower market and tear down his converted gas station.
I get your sentimentality, but I'm not sure I can see how you "create a sense of place" in that way. This building actually looks nothing like anything else going up in Boston at the moment.

I read a lot of those proposals - they promised more or less what US2 is going to deliver. The neighborhood green isn't part of this initial phase, but all of the master plans more or less looked the same. Mixed use, medium density, looks like Assembly located in a real square. That's what Curtatone asked them for.

What does "more" mean, I guess I'm asking? How can a developer build sentimentality and memories into something from the moment it's built?

FWIW, they've promised to keep Rickys in the square somewhere. That's not a great location for Christmas tree pickups anyhow.
 

Ruairi

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What does "more" mean, I guess I'm asking? How can a developer build sentimentality and memories into something from the moment it's built?

FWIW, they've promised to keep Rickys in the square somewhere. That's not a great location for Christmas tree pickups anyhow.
You can do it by doing a better job of knitting the new buildings in to the existing neighborhood.
For me, Rickys is a great example of natural urban regeneration. I think it looks great and acts like a lung in the center of union square. Yes, access is poor but when they replace it with a box with cheap cladding, access will still be poor only this time it will be access to a TD bank.
I'm not suggesting the new buildings create a sense of place on their own but with the existing buildings.
What about doing something like building a new connector road between washington st and Somerville ave on the site of the police station. Divert traffic behind Rickys instead of in front. Then put a public space between Rickys, the old post office and the old fire station. This would flow in to the existing public space in Union. You've turned a dangerous 4 way intersection into a safer 3 way intersection, kept a unique building/business in Rickys and created a public space with the old post office as a backdrop.
 

Texasian

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What about doing something like building a new connector road between washington st and Somerville ave on the site of the police station. Divert traffic behind Rickys instead of in front. Then put a public space between Rickys, the old post office and the old fire station. This would flow in to the existing public space in Union. You've turned a dangerous 4 way intersection into a safer 3 way intersection, kept a unique building/business in Rickys and created a public space with the old post office as a backdrop.
This would make buses coming to and from Sullivan even more tortured. Not to mention you’d basically be hemming in the folks living between Washington and Somerville even more tightly hemmed in by major roads... as well as introducing another signal with dedicated turn phases to Somerville Ave.
 

Ruairi

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This would make buses coming to and from Sullivan even more tortured. Not to mention you’d basically be hemming in the folks living between Washington and Somerville even more tightly hemmed in by major roads... as well as introducing another signal with dedicated turn phases to Somerville Ave.
I don't think it would hem anyone in, it would be between Rickys and what ever they build on the site of the police station. Yea, it would be one more junction on Somerville Ave, but I'd be alright with breaking up that 4 way intersection. As a pedestrian who crosses that every day, I'm sick of drivers who think the red filter light is just a suggestion. It's a mess now and it's only going to get messier when the station and buildings open.
It's moot anyway, It's not going to happen. In ten years union will be full of glass boxes with fancy cladding, bad traffic and expensive coffee.
I just think it's a shame.
 

statler

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It's almost like they think size can be mesured in more than one dimension.
 

Equilibria

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Not anything interesting, but important: Somerville Planning Board now has a subdivision plan for the three initial parcels on Prospect at the station:

https://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/2-D2 Subdivision Plan 2-8-19.pdf

Presumably, these three buildings have been severed from the 30,000ft Union Square planning work, meaning that they're imminent.
... and the shoe drops. They're subdividing the site into the Skanska and US2 parcels, presumably.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2019/03/06/skanska-signs-for-lab-project-somerville-union-square/oSjczmWM15xWzCdoqQkzxN/story.html
 

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