Aldermen Authorize $8 Million Bond for Union Square Green Line Site
The matter sparked another debate about the future of the Green Line in Union Square.
The Somerville Board of Aldermen Thursday authorized an $8 million bond to acquire land and plan for the proposed Union Square Green Line Station.
Most of the bond—$6 million of it—would go toward acquiring land, between Prospect Street, Somerville Avenue and Allen Street, for the station and accompanying development.
Currently, the site is home to a junkyard, a scrap metal recycling business, a marble and granite business and a plumbing and heating fixture dealer. The city may need to exercise eminent domain powers to acquire some of the parcels.
The other $2 million authorized by the bond would fund cleanup, engineering and planning services connected to the site and station.
The bond authorization came about a week after the Board of Aldermen approved the Union Square Revitalization Plan, which provides a roadmap for redevelopment of the neighborhood.
Alderman At-Large William White was the sole member of the Board of Aldermen to vote against the bond authorization.
White reiterated some of the same concerns he voiced when voting against the Union Square Revitalization Plan a week earlier. Principally, he suspects the country could be heading into difficult economic times, especially with sluggish growth in China and the downturn of Europe's economy. What's more, he pointed to the lack of a binding agreement with the state to actually build the Union Square Green Line Station, which is waiting for federal approvals that, he said, are expected in 2014.
Given the economic climate, in regard to authorizing an $8 million bond, "It would make sense to wait to see what happens in 2014," he said.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, responding to White's concerns, said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has given strong affirmations that the station would be built. "We had fewer guarantees on Assembly Square," he said, referring to the site of an under-construction Orange Line Station.
The mayor acknowledged there are hurdles to overcome before the Union Square Station becomes a reality. "You want guarantees written in blood? It's not going to happen," he said.
Later in the meeting, White responded by saying, "I don't need anything signed in blood. Plain ink would be sufficient with me."
Curtatone also said that Somerville has a nickname—he refused to say Slumerville—"because of the types of uses that are down there [in the Union Square site] now." He said it was time to get rid of that area's "blight."
In the end, 10 members of the Board of Aldermen voted to authorize the bond.
"Is this a gamble? No. This is an investment," said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston, who represents the area.
Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, who joined White the previous week in voting against the Union Square Revitalization Plan, mostly because she felt it went too far with possible eminent domain takings, supported the bond. The area is "a run-down, beat-up, old scrap metal yard," she said, and authorizing the bond would "send a message that we're also very serious about the Green Line."