Mayor to accept Powder House School redevelopment recommendations

On August 22, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Tufts University selected by Technical Advisory Committee as first choice for site use


Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that the Powderhouse Community School Technical Advisory Committee has submitted its final recommendations for redevelopment of the former K-8 public school site. The Committee recommended three of six proposals for consideration by the Mayor, with a proposal by Tufts University receiving the top recommendation of 80 percent group favorability. The Mayor plans to accept this recommendation.

The proposal submitted by Tufts University involves combining the former school and Tufts Administration Building (TAB) sites into a larger parcel that would face both Holland Street and Broadway. The complex would include upgrades to the existing TAB building, the construction of an administrative building with underground parking on the site of the former school, a third building on the former school site with either office or unaffiliated residential units (both affordable and market rate available to the public), and the largest contiguous public green space of any of the proposals. The Tufts proposal was the only submission to propose adding significant daytime office space and employees to the Teele Square area, and it creates significantly more open space than other proposals in addition to an expansion of current open space. It also would maintain building size that is consistent with a collaborative vision developed by community members over the last three years. The University has expressed a commitment to paying full property taxes on buildings they plan to develop.  

Two alternate proposals by Davis Square Partners and Diamond Sinacori each propose residential condominium developments for the site and were also recommended for consideration by the Mayor.

“The Powder House Community School was a valuable and beloved community resource for many years, and planning for its potential reuse or redevelopment has been an intensive community effort,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I want to thank the first the many residents who dedicated time to the community process and I also want to commend the Committee for their diligence in ensuring that their recommendation reflects the preferences of the large number of constituents who took part in the many public meetings to plan for this site. I look forward to also ensuring that we have a community development partner that will help bring these ideas to fruition.”

The site includes an 87,599-square-foot parcel with an existing 80,857-square-foot building that may be retained or demolished. Six proposals were submitted for review from: Davis Square Partners, Diamond Sinacori, Mammoth Acquisition Company, Powderhouse Development Group, Somerville Community Corp, and Tufts University.

The 15-member committee included seven residents, one business representative, three aldermen, one school committee member, and three city staff members. The Mayor and city officials convened the Technical Advisory Committee in May 2013 to review responses to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking partners to reuse and/or redevelop the site.

The RFP sought proposals that would meet the objectives of the neighborhood developed through a two-year public process. Additional criteria included the experience of the development team in developing the project and leading a community design process, the long-term economic impact of the proposal, as well as the price offered for the property. According to RFP criteria, a minimum of 40 percent of the site must remain public open space, and the pedestrian route from Broadway to Holland Street must be preserved, enhanced, and maintained by the community partner.

Technical Advisory Committee member Richard Shortt noted that area residents met for over two years in ongoing Focus Group meetings sponsored by the city to identify community priorities. “The Committee paid close attention to what was recommended by the Focus Groups and a majority of members are happy with the recommended choice of Tufts University,” he said. “Their proposal provides more than double the open space hoped for, rather than just protecting existing open space, the number one priority of residents who participated in the Focus Groups.”

Mayor Curtatone plans to accept the Committee’s recommendations, and will enter into discussions to pursue an agreement with Tufts. Should an agreement not be reached, the two alternate proposals will be considered. Once a final recommendation is submitted to the Board of Aldermen and approved, the selected development partner and the city will engage the community in a collaborative planning process to establish how the plan will be designed on the site.

TAC members included:

  • Alderman Bob Trane, Ward 7
  • Alderman-at-Large Jack Connolly
  • Alderman-at-Large Dennis Sullivan
  • School Committee Chairperson Mary Jo Rossetti
  • Business owner Connor Brenan of PJ Ryan’s Pub
  • Somerville residents:
    • Sean Becker
    • Frances Fisher
    • Brian Harris
    • Jim Monagle
    • Mike Panis
    • Alex Pitkin
    • Richard Shortt
    • SomervilleCity staff:
      • George Proakis, OSPCD, Director of Planning and Zoning
      • Stephen Houdlette, OSPCD, Economic Development Specialist
      • Luisa Oliveira, OSPCD, Senior Planner for Landscape Design
      • Nonvoting member: Angela Allen, Purchasing Director

For more information on the Powder House Community School project please contact OSPCD at 617-625-6600 ext 2500.



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