By Harry Kane
The Curtatone Administration delayed discussions regarding the building of a boutique hotel in Davis Square and is instead holding a series of meetings to dream up future design concepts to spruce up the neighborhood.
The Administration sought the opportunity to build a hotel in Davis Square on a city-owned parcel at intersection of Herbert Street and Day Street.
Back in May of 2011 a study showed it was commercially feasible. Several developers have shown interest, but talks have come to a standstill since. City officials have had to re-think the idea of constructing a hotel for the time being.
“We sorta set that process aside,” said George Proakis, director of planning in the City of Somerville. “The hotel process has been put on hold until this [streetscape] process is complete,” Proakis added, now looking for feedback from the community crowdsourcing event to gauge public support and opposition.
The first of many Davis Square design meetings took place on May 21 at the Baptist Church on College Street. City officials presented a design initiative to assess “neighborhood consensus,” said Proakis. The series of meetings have, at least for the time being, replaced the community conversation about the proposed hotel. Yet, the hotel remains a sidebar discussion.
The streetscape brainstorming sessions are a way to get the community involved in the planning process for the future of Davis Square. But most of the residents came to the meeting to hear about the hotel. Ward 6 locals became hostile as the meeting progressed, after a lack of discussion on the proposed hotel.
Protestors of the proposed hotel project interrupted the presentation, which rapidly turned into a cross-examination with Proakis responding to residents’ complaints. One woman said she heard the proposal for the hotel was due imminently, and wondered why she hadn’t heard more about the hotel.
“There is a draft timeline, I believe, on the hotel RFP process which may say that we owe the developer, in fact, a reply at a certain point in time,” said Proakis. “We have informed them that we don’t intend to meet that timeline.”
Resident Alan Bingham of 30 Day St. believes the boutique hotel will serve the area well, but he has doubts about the price tag, location, and parking concerns associated with a hotel development.
Binghman indicated that the Herbert/Day parcel is appraised at $7.7 million commercially, but the RFP appraises it at only $1.04 million. “We know 82 Dover around the corner, less than 25 percent of the area, went for over a million recently, and to give away over $6.5 million to a developer of taxpayer value seems problematic at best,” Binghman said, when talking about the Herbert/Day parcel.
The location of the hotel is under dispute among residents, as well. The current plot of land under debate is the Herbert/Day parcel, which is the location for the weekly farmers market and a parking lot. Another, maybe more sensible location for the hotel, said Bingham, is the Rite-Aid parcel. There is also the Buena Vista lot, which a Tufts survey determined might be suitable for the site of a hotel. However, the Herbert/Day property may be the only available parcel.
While the decision for a hotel hangs in the balance, a community design process will ensue over the next few months. At this first meeting, residents were asked what aspects of Davis Square they wanted to see more of. There was a consensus that a well-designed hotel in the right location would serve the community well, as long as the parking situation was dealt with.
Whether or not residents are in support or opposed to the proposed Davis Square hotel, one thing is for sure, more community dialogue must happen before anything is decided upon.