Big day at Assembly Square

On May 4, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

Everyone agreed that the beautifully restored Edsels added a lot to the sense of occasion – and of history.

There they were, gleaming in the April sunshine. Those Edsels had been built at Ford’s Assembly Square plant between 1958 and 1960, when American cars were long, wide, high-finned and even more highly chromed. As an affordable luxury model, the Edsel was considered a dud in its day. But from the vantage point of 2012, those handsome old cars – with their push-button automatic transmissions, “rolling dome” speedometers, self-adjusting brakes, standard seat belts (unusual for the time), and child-proof locks – can be seen for what they are: regal and magnificent road machines that offer a glowing, solid reminder of the skill, ingenuity and hard work of the people of our city.

Back in the day, thousands and thousands of beautiful cars and light trucks rolled off the Ford lines at Assembly Square.

But yesterday, after nearly two decades of planning, debate and discussion, we saw the rollout of Assembly Square’s next great product: our city’s future.

As we gathered to celebrate the beginning of Phase 1 construction on the new Assembly Row – over 450 units of housing (the number will eventually grow to over 2000) and 300 thousand square feet of rental and commercial space – several of the speakers (including me), mentioned that this kind of progress can only happen when you take the long view.

For nearly two decades, we’ve been discussing, debating, litigating, planning, negotiating, partnering and working to find funding for the new Assembly Square. Finally, it’s starting to happen: the new T station, the mixed use neighborhood, the waterfront park: all of it is happening.

As I said at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Assembly Square has a lot of moving parts and a lot of crucial participants, and every one of them deserves credit. Congressman Capuano, Senator John Kerry and the late, great Ted Kennedy all delivered in terms of securing and maintaining support for the use of federal transit funds. When our national economy plummeted into recession in 2008, the Deval Patrick Administration saw that Assembly Square deserved, and would make good use of, federal stimulus dollars and funding from the state’s Infrastructure Investment Incentive (or I-Cubed) program.

Our Board of Aldermen did an amazing job of keeping the program moving forward over the past ten years with changes to our zoning regulations and with a crucial injection of $25 million District Improvement Financing (DIF) bonds that will be repaid directly from the tax revenues generated by Assembly Square.

Our state legislative delegation backed us repeatedly on Beacon Hill, and they deserve their share of the credit, too.

Of course, Assembly Square wouldn’t have happened without a superb development partner with the experience, patience and vision to deliver on a project of this magnitude. Since 2005, Federal Realty Investment Trust has been an honorable, reliable and creative collaborator – everything we could hope for in a partner, and more.

We also owe a true debt of gratitude to the activists who fought for – and sometimes with – the City to ensure that the project embodied the best transit-oriented, mixed use, smart growth principles of urban redevelopment. Many of the activists – from Wig Zamore of the Mystic View Task Force to Ellin Reisner of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership – attended the groundbreaking on Monday. They deserved to be there; this project is better for their efforts.

But, in the end, this was a celebration for every member of the Somerville community – past, present and future. $130 million in public investment has leveraged $1.6 billion in private investment. When fully built out, Assembly Square will spin off thousands of permanent jobs and tens of millions in annual tax revenues. And it will do these things because the people of our city have never given up on their hopes and dreams – and on their shared determination to build a new neighborhood on the banks of the Mystic River that embodies the best characteristics of our entire city: diverse, dynamic, vital and engaging.

Assembly Square is on its way: We should all take a moment to celebrate and ponder this extraordinary achievement.

And then we can get right back to work – because hard work is what got us to this great day and hard work is what will allow us to make the most of it.

Congratulations, everybody.


14 Responses to “Big day at Assembly Square”

  1. j. connelly says:

    If Washington DC politics doesnt start actually working. Remember Capuano’s comment when Republicans became the majority, “He wasn’t going to do anything” [just collect a fat paycheck with more benefits than any of his constituents make.. et tu brute; he admittted he was committing fraud & robbing the taxpayers]. Again the mouth b4 thinking…Guts or stupidity?

    The mayor did a good job reminding the citizens that the BOA assisted him with the developers bond at taxpayers expense…atta boy Joe..take them all down with you.

    So let us hope that the politicians forget the photo ops and move towards bringing the USA back into the black…..otherwise that sign at the “T” station may have a spray painted “X” on the station name & instead have graffitti above it saying “Twilight Zone”.

  2. J M B says:

    Really, J. Connelly? That’s how you took that statement? I took it as, “won’t do anything” because Republican leadership doesn’t allow Dem amendments or bills to get to the floor. Mayor Joe is right, if it wasn’t for our Congressional delegation, especially Capuano, we wouldn’t have the federal funding to help realize the potential of Ass. Sq.

  3. j. connelly says:

    “JMB” – whether they be Dem., Rep., Ind., T Pahtay., etc….They have all failed miserably. They all take PAC $$$, They all went to the weekly Wednesday secret meetings where they are all told in advance what stocks to buy and what realty investments to make. If you were told that info you would be in a federal prison today. Wake Up.

  4. jack meoff says:

    Great job! Even a better job patting yourselves on the back.

  5. Villenous says:

    JMB, you’ve made the honest mistake of thinking j. connelly would actually be happy about something undeniably positive taking place in Somerville. He’s committed to hating prosperity and levity. Just wait until you see what kind of hair he gets across his backside when thousands upon thousands start turning out for the summer festivals. The better things get, the more miserable he becomes … and his personal Misery Index seems to be at an all-time high.

  6. A Moore says:

    The cars looked nice, after that….. 20 years this thing has been held up. Don’t know how many just from the task force holding the city hostage over this. I have not seen anything so messed up and take so long as this project. Maybe 2 to 5 years at best to plan and build anywhere else. So much money lost to us from this mess. Good businesses to Somervile either out of business or out of the city. And these guys want to take credit for it as progress. At least there is enough fertilizer in this article to take care of Assembly Square for years to come.

  7. j. connelly says:

    “Villenous” I dislike prosperity when it is for the chosen few [like developers] and not for everyone. Why the “we gotta pass the bond” for the developers that night and after passage the mayor was withdrawing funds from that account for other non Assembly Row projects? Evidently the true cost for Assembly Row was less than 25 million. Screw the taxpayers again?
    I love festivals as long as the permits are legit and appropriate fees and cleanup are followed. I smile every time I get a rebuttal like yours as it appears it struck a nerve and you could possibly be one of those hacks on the payroll while the real workers who provide the needed work are wrongly laid off. Did I tell you about the time the media crew was filming from an unmarked van?

  8. WS says:

    Only time will tell but the initial signs are good. Doesn’t stop Connelly and Moore (or is it Waldorf and Statler?) from spewing their usual dose of negativity.

  9. j. connelly says:

    Well it’s a blog/forum in the USA and I’m sure Mr. Waldorf will concur, freedom of speech is applicable here… if you want to discriminate and dictate that no one can challenge issues…then you are in the wrong country…and have a nice day.

  10. Ray Spitzer says:

    ““Villenous” I dislike prosperity when it is for the chosen few [like developers] and not for everyone. ”

    Correction: this does not hold if you are one of the chosen few, I suppose.

  11. Congressman Capuano, in the tradition of the so-called “late, great Ted Kennedy” is just another money-hungry, career politician.

  12. Papa says:

    Aren’t we all “money hungry”? its why we work instead of drift around homeless or live on the dole. And the term career politician is a little silly – politics is a career (not getting into the ‘nobility of professions’ whatever that means). I wouldn’t say I’m a “career software engineer” or a “career systems architect”.

  13. Ray Spitzer says:

    Papa, the term “career politician” means something very specific. Certain jobs come with certain qualities. A good teacher is someone who loves to teach. A good scientist is someone who loves knowledge and seeking the truth. A good politician is somebody who loves serving for the public good. We say somebody is a “career something”, when this is not true, and when this somebody is in it for money or power, betraying the actual function of that job. Their presence distorts incentives in the field, and ultimately are demotivating to those who actually do their job because they love it. I do not know if Capuano is a career politician or not, but the term has some real meaning.

  14. @ Papa — “Aren’t we all ‘money hungry’?”

    Speak for yourself.

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