Group Holds Affordable Housing Rally in Union Square

The rally happened as two sides in a dispute about a housing development prepare to participate in a mediation process.

The , which is planning a 40-unit affordable housing development in Union Square, held a rally in support of affordable housing in that neighborhood Wednesday evening.

The rally came two days after the organization and a group of neighbors who oppose the development announced they would participate in a . The rift between the two groups had grown bitter after a series of community meetings during the winter and spring.

The proposed development, at the former Boys & Girls Club at 181 Washington St., would include affordable rental units, some retail space and a new office for the Somerville Community Corporation.

One of the organization's main goals at Wednesday's rally was to present a group of Union Square residents who support the project.

Danny LeBlanc, executive director of Somerville Community Corporation, previously told Somerville Patch, "I for one don't think Union Square Rising"—the opposition group—"speaks for everyone in that community."

At Wednesday's rally, a number of Union Square residents held up letters that spelled out "Everyone's Somerville."

One of those sign-holders was Skip Wright, an animator and educator who teaches part time at Northeastern University and has studio space at Joy Street Studios.

"The Green Line is coming, and if we don't do something like this now, it's not going to happen ever," he said of the 181 Washington Street proposal.

He said, "It's either going to be a condo development or affordable housing, and they've got plenty of condo developments going up."

"Either way," he said, "Union Square is rising."

Louise Marks, a volunteer at Somerville Community Corporation and retired social worker, also held up a letter. She lives nearby on Walnut Street and said, "Families who grew up here can't afford to stay here." Marks owns her home, and she said she didn't think an affordable housing development would depress property values in the area.

Speaking to Somerville Patch Monday about the upcoming mediation process, Union Square Rising member Zac Zasloff questioned the idea that Somerville Community Corporation was holding the rally, which was originally scheduled to coincide with a community forum about the project. That forum was cancelled due to the mediation.

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