‘Somerville by Design,’ city seeks community input

On October 16, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Initiative to launch with event at Armory on October 17

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced  the kickoff of a new initiative to implement the urban design and land use goals of the City’s SomerVision Comprehensive Plan. The program, called “Somerville by Design,” will officially launch with an event at the Center for Arts at the Armory on Wednesday, October 17.

The event will run from 6:30 – 8:30pm, and will feature exercises and activities to help community members explore their vision for the future of the neighborhoods around Ball Square, Lowell Street/Magoun Square and Gilman Square Green Line stations. Somerville by Design will include the development of design-based Neighborhood Plans for future Green Line station areas and help shape a planned update of the City’s zoning ordinance Neighborhood plans will allow members of the community to visualize a future in which a completed Green Line Extension serves the needs of thriving, stable, walkable neighborhoods. The initiative will help implement SomerVision goals to conserve the character of our existing residential areas while also ensuring context-sensitive growth around new Green Line transit stations. SomerVision and Somerville by Design are results of funding through a Challenge Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Program.

“In 2011, Somerville became the only city in Massachusetts to receive funding under the Obama administration’s groundbreaking Sustainable Communities grant program. The President’s initiative breaks down bureaucratic barriers between the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and invests in cities that take a holistic, inclusive approach to growing the economy, modernizing transportation infrastructure, and improving the environment,” said Mayor Curtatone. “It’s no surprise that Somerville would be recognized as a model for urban policy, and as a sound investment of federal resources.”

In the first phase of Somerville by Design, the City will lead a cutting-edge public engagement process around three MBTA Green Line stations and the neighborhoods that will be served by this new transit investment. The initiative will begin with a series of urban design workshops to develop Neighborhood Plans in Ball Square, Gilman Square, and the Lowell Street/Magoun Square neighborhoods. Residents, business owners, and other interested stakeholders will have a unique opportunity to share their ideas for neighborhood preservation and improvement. The participation process for the Somerville by Design neighborhood plans will be designed to generate consensus-based urban design solutions without the need for a multi-year planning process.

The kickoff “visioning session” for all three neighborhoods will be held at the Center for Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Avenue) at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, October 17. This session will identify current challenges and future visions for the Ball Square, Gilman Square, and the Lowell Street/Magoun Square neighborhoods. Subsequent design workshops will be held in November, for which details will be made available.

Community members will work directly with local and national experts in urban design, architecture, and engineering in a hands-on format to see their ideas come to life via real-time sketches and professional artist’s renderings of neighborhood improvements. The sessions will be led by OSPCD staff with design work coordinated by Jeff Speck, an author and designer who is the former Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and a pioneer in implementing the NEA’s influential Mayor’s Institute on City Design.

“During the groundbreaking SomerVision Comprehensive Planning process, our residents consistently identified a need to develop neighborhood-based plans around the future Green Line stations,” said Michael F. Glavin, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. “Each individual neighborhood is unique in its needs, and I look forward to working with residents and the business community to identify ways to maximize the benefit of the new transit service.”

“All around the country, community planning is focusing on urban design, because residents know what parts of the physical environment work and what parts need improvement,” said George Proakis, Director of Planning for the City. “Whether a neighborhood needs better sidewalks, more open space, or well-designed construction on vacant and underutilized lots, urban design and physical planning has proven to be a great way to generate consensus among community members.”

A project schedule and materials are available on the City’s website at www.somervillema.gov/bydesign.


5 Responses to “‘Somerville by Design,’ city seeks community input”

  1. Courtney O'Keefe says:

    Ironically, scheduled the same night as the ZBA decision on the Armory.

  2. j. connelly says:

    Maybe someone will surprise us and come up with a funding solution that will not burden the taxpayers in these “Tough Fiscal Times”. A lot of people suggest or throw out ideas but no one goes full circle as to how to fund it without unjustly burdening the taxpayers. With the land taking in Union Square 60% of total land in this city will be Tax Exempt… Time for common sense people instead of these pie in the sky ideas. Even out in the midwest when businesses & the local college wanted the tranportation line extended, their legislature demanded that they all kick in $$$$ for the project.

    Yep a lot of groundbreaking by Lego Joe & OSPCD (Design everything despite that funds may not be there for the GLX).

    Even our own Congressman is hinting that with the bleak financial years ahead, the GLX may be truly Transparent.

    “All around the country, community planning is focusing on urban design, because residents know what parts of the physical environment work and what parts need improvement,” said George Proakis, Director of Planning for the City. Well then George, why does the mayor REPEATEDLY reject businesses that the neighbors WANT IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS.

    Hello people! Assembly Row/IKEA. Fourteen years and still “Fields of Dirt”. IKEA “Row’d” back to the Netherlands. Meanwhile the taxpayers are stuck with the “bond” and if the economy does stay bad as some financial people are stating, there will be no one who can afford to move into the Assembly Row apartments and Somerville will end up with another Mystic Projects.

  3. A Moore says:

    I would hate to think my parents were wrong all these years telling me if I can’t afford to pay for it, do without until you can. Guess tha does not apply to Somerville. Nicely put connelly .

  4. joanne says:

    Wow, this is the ultimate PC, pandering, yuppie initiative. I wonder how much it’s costing us for this dog and pony show? I’m sure we’ll never know.

  5. Scooby Doo says:

    Connelly’s making even less sense that usual tonight. Just randomly spitting out nonsense. Please explain IKEA’s connection to the Netherlands.

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