Locals Take a Close Look at Brickbottom District
Residents examined the industrial district and its potential for redevelopment.
Some 30 Somerville residents met at the Washington Street Holiday Inn Saturday morning for the first city-sponsored public meeting about redeveloping Brickbottom into a walkable district with more housing, shops, restaurants and offices.
The district’s borders include the McGrath Highway, Washington Street and the Boston city line. The city has hired the Boston-based Goody Clancy, an architecture and planning firm, to help come up with a design. The firm’s director of planning and urban design, David Dixon, said that the plan would include mixed-use development and affordable housing amid ample public space.
He said it would also cater to college-educated young people qualified to work in laboratories or other high-tech businesses that city officials and planners envision having there.
Attendees listened to presentations and then separated into groups to travel through sections of the district. They took pictures and talked about what they’d like to see in the neighborhood and what they’d like to see go. Afterward, everyone met back at the hotel to transfer their pictures to a computer and view and discuss them as a group.
This reporter tagged along with the group that toured Washington Street, from Tufts Street to Sullivan Square Station. The city’s director of economic development, Rob May, led the tour.
Examining Washington Street
Jeremy Bowman, a web application developer, lives on Broadway in East Somerville and often walks down Washington Street to Union Square. But he said he’s never stopped at Royal Pizza & Subs, the No Touch Car Wash or any of the other businesses along the way.
“I’ve considered stopping here a few times,” Bowman said as the group walked through a strip mall containing a Tedeschi Food Shop and a Dunkin Donuts, “but I usually keep going. I’m usually on my way to somewhere else.”
Bowman said he’d also like to see a grocery store on the street and more restaurants, shops and pharmacies.
The group snapped photos of the narrow sidewalk in front of the Cobble Hill Apartments, the shuttered Café Belo, the peaceful, tree-lined Myrtle Street and the crumbling stretch of road that divides Somerville from Charlestown.
Dan Stachurski, a graphic designer for the Boston Business Journal, lives on Mt. Vernon and participates in the Inner Belt Brickbottom focus group.
He and his wife always drive the 1.2 miles from their home to Union Square to avoid walking under the highway and the bridge that bears the MBTA Commuter Rail, which he called “frightening.”
Residents will have another chance to walk and photograph the district with the planning team at the next public meeting, which the city has not yet scheduled. In the meantime, keep up with the project on the Inner Belt Brickbottom Plan website.