City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Placed on File
Oct 2, 2012 7:30 PM

Requesting approval of the Union Square Revitalization Plan, per MGL c121B s48 and 760 CMR 12.00 et seq.


Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Miscellaneous Mayor's Request


  1. Union Square Revitalization Plan

Official Text

To the Honorable Board:


Per the regulations of MGL Section 121B (Housing and Urban Renewal), and 760 CMR 12 (Urban Renewal Regulations) I am submitting for approval to your Honorable Board the Union Square Revitalization Plan. 


Approval of this plan will allow the City to honor its obligations under the recent Memorandum of Agreement between the City, MassDOT and the MBTA for construction of the new Union Square Green Line station.  The plan will also facilitate transit-oriented development of land in Union Square, supported by the new station, and generate new jobs and state and local tax revenue.  The plan facilitates the implementation of goals for Union Square from the 2012 SomerVision plan, the 2009 Union Square Rezoning, and many other area planning efforts in recent years.


The regulations will require the Board to schedule a public hearing on this plan.


I look forward to the opportunity to further discuss this plan with the Board.


Respectfully submitted,


Joseph A. Curtatone


Meeting History

Aug 16, 2012 7:00 PM Video City Council Special Meeting
Aug 29, 2012 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee Meeting

Mr. Glavin spoke about the revitalization plan’s goals, reviewed the map of the proposed lots to be created for disposition and discussed parcels of land that would be impacted by the MBTA station. The estimated cost to demolish the proposed site is $6 million. To fund the acquisition of real estate needed, the city will be requesting the issuance of bonds. Mr. Glavin will ascertain whether redevelopment authorities have the ability to acquire their own bonds and will report that information to the committee.

Mayor Curtatone assured the members that the city would go above and beyond what is required for outreach and he stated that the timeline for the Green Line extension is not flexible and must be adhered to. Chairman Lafuente stated that the lots selected are among the most poorly maintained in the area and he believes that a cohesive plan is necessary to accomplish the goal.

Alderman Taylor spoke about the calls he has received from property owners and he does not agree that all of the proposed properties need to be taken. He feels that the city is being too ambitious and he would like to delay the scheduled public hearing on this matter until the end of October.

Alderman White expressed concern about not knowing what he is voting on with respect to future parcels involved and asked how the redevelopment authority would be able to acquire other parcels in the future, suggesting that future eminent domain takings be subject to approval by the Board of Aldermen. He also spoke about how this might place some properties in limbo because of the amount of time the development could take. Alderman White requested that a listing of the assessed values of all the parcels impacted by this plan be provided.

Sep 13, 2012 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr. Glavine and Ms. McGettigan provided responses to questions raised at earlier meetings.

· The SRA has the authority to issue bonds in its own name, however, it does not have the assets to back the bonds for underwriting. Ms. McGettigan will find out if funds will be made available for the SRA to issue bonds.

· A simple majority of the BOA is needed to approve the plan. Any major changes to the plan would require a public hearing and BOA approval.

· The SRA would look to the City to pay damages on a judgment for an eminent domain claim.

Mr. Proakis reviewed the list of properties designated as acquisition parcels and Mr. Glavin stated that the MBTA would pay for environmental cleanup of specific areas and that the city would use its mitigation funds for environmental cleanup of city-owned property.

Mr. Bean explained that a legal memorandum between the City and the SRA would be effectuated to set up an account for issuing bonds from the SRA. All of the bonds would have to be used for the purpose stated on the MOA. After a full build out of the area, the estimated tax value to the city would be $2.4 million dollars. The city is hoping to acquire a developer by 2014 and to have the project completed by 2017. Approval of the plan is critical to the MBTA building a station in Union Square and the station would, in turn, provide an incentive for developers.

Alderman O’Donovan requested information, including appraisals, on the taking of properties.

Sep 19, 2012 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee of the Whole
Sep 25, 2012 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr. Glavin informed the members that the plan has been amended by deleting the Asian Market from the list of properties to be taken. Mayor Curtatone stated that the plan is necessary to attract developers and that the properties in question are currently being under utilized. He told the members that if the city does not move forward on this proposal, the redevelopment of Union Square will not happen. The Mayor added that even if the MBTA stop does not come to fruition, the taking of the subject properties by eminent domain would still be good for the city, since higher and better used of the properties would create a better quality of life.

Alderman White expressed concern over the plan being contingent upon approval by the MBTA Board of Directors and he spoke about redevelopment plans that have failed in the past. Alderman White stated that he is not confident that the city would be able to sell the land if the MBTA stop isn’t built, adding that he doesn’t feel comfortable about the guarantees for the Green Line extension, and he asked for some statements from the Governor to support the state’s dedication to extending the Green Line. Alderman White also spoke about how this plan could hurt current businesses from obtaining financing and he believes that the plan could be carried out in a manner that would not harm those businesses.

Alderman Gewirtz stressed that state financing is not in place for the Green Line extension and she asked why the city needs to take these properties if the MBTA can do it themselves. Alderman Gewirtz also asked what would happen if a developer didn’t come forward. Alderman Heuston spoke about the lack of a time frame to carry out the plan and feels that demolishing properties in the D-2 block prevents owners of those properties from developing the properties on their own. Alderman Desmond pointed out that there are no guarantees from the state.

Alderman Connolly stated that the city should move forward cautiously and maintain control of the sites and he expressed concern about remediation and exposure to the city, to which Mr. Glavin replied that the remediation of private property can be negotiated with private developers, so as to avoid using public funds. Mr. Azar noted a statute limiting liability with respect to environmental issues and redevelopment authorities.

Alderman Taylor stated that he would like to deal with the portion of the plan dealing with block D-2 only, this evening, to allow for further discussion of the full plan. The committee discussed severing the D-2 section of the plan, however Mayor Curtatone stated that the Administration doesn’t plan to do so because time is of the essence.

Alderman O’Donovan made a motion to move the question. Alderman Gewirtz stated that deliberation is important, therefore, she was not ready to vote on the matter. Alderman Heuston stated that she had concerns, as did some property owners, but she was ready to move forward, adding the Board of Aldermen would still have control of the finances even if a redevelopment authority is involved. Alderman White disagreed with that statement since a developer with its own funds would not need Board of Aldermen approval. Alderman O’Donovan’s motion to move the question was approved on a roll call vote of 6 in favor, 3 against and 2 absent.

A roll call vote was taken at the committee meeting to approve the item (193585), as follows: 6 in favor (Ald. Lafuente, Heuston, O'Donovan, Trane, Desmond and Connolly), 3 against (Ald. Gewirtz, Taylor and White), and 2 absent (Ald. Sullivan and Roche), and the item was reported out of committee as such.

Note: At the October 2, 2012 Board of Aldermen meeting, this Committee Report was amended by placing item 193585 on file, since a revised plan was being submitted at the BOA meeting.

Sep 27, 2012 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Ald. Taylor exercised his right to table the item under Charter Section 15.

Oct 2, 2012 7:30 PM Video City Council Special Meeting

Replaced by the updated Union Sq. Revitalization Plan submitted as #193823 (Agenda #3).