Somerville, MA approves rezoning for $1B mixed-use project

Dive Brief:

  • The Somerville (MA) Board of Aldermen has approved the rezoning necessary for the construction of a $1 billion, 2.3-million-square-foot, mixed-use development, according to REBusinessOnline.
  • The Union Square project, which will be a transit-oriented development once the $2.3 billion Green Line light-rail extension is complete, will feature 1.3 million square feet of office, lab, hotel, retail and art space, according to Commercial Property Executive, with the rest reserved for housing. Developers said 20% of residential units will be set aside for low-income residents, and 25% of the total project will be green and civic space.
  • The 15.5-acre project will take about 20 years to complete, with the first phase seeing the completion of approximately 400 residential units and 175,000 square feet for lab, office and retail space.

Dive Insight:  

​Developers said the Green Line, once complete, will be able to easily connect the development to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, as well as other neighboring communities and the city of Boston. The project is expected to generate 4,000 construction jobs and 5,000 permanent positions once it is built out.

Union Square officials are counting on the successful delivery of the Green Line extension project, which has faced significant obstacles during construction. The project has been stalled since December 2015, when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority fired the team of White-Skanska-Kiewit after delays and projected cost overruns of almost $1 billion. A third-party inquiry found that MBTA mismanagement played a significant role in the debacle as well.

The Federal Transit Administration gave its formal approval for the scaled-down version of the $2.3 billion project in early April. Since then, the MBTA has hired CH2M to oversee the project and narrowed the list of design-build teams down to three. Estimated completion of the extension has been pushed back to 2021.

Development in another Boston neighborhood, the Seaport District, is booming. Developers recently broke ground there on a $900 million housing development, Echelon Seaport, which will provide three towers with 733 residential units — a mix of apartments and condominiums — as well as a central plaza with retail stores and restaurants.

In February, WS Development announced that it would transform 12 acres of Seaport-area parking lots into a nine-building, 1.4-million-square-foot, mixed-use development. WS's plans include residential and innovation space, as well as a promenade, called Harbor Way and a public "piazza" dubbed Harbor Square. WS said the project, which will also include restaurants and retail, should be complete by 2022.  

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