I have lived in the Union Square/Brickbottom neighborhood for 15 years and I see the SCC/Cathartes project at 181/197 Washington as an important cornerstone for future development in my neighborhood.
Clearly, the project is in alignment with the city’s comprehensive plan which calls for an increase in transit-oriented, compact development, including 6,000 additional units of housing (1,200 of them affordable) by 2013. More importantly, this project will help keep Somerville a diverse and affordable place to live by building market rate and affordable income house in the same project. As recently reported in the June 30th Sunday Boston Globe, the state (and the city) desperately need new housing, the commercial build-out that goes with it and the follow-on economic benefits and job growth.
At the last hearing of the Somerville Planning Board on June 20th, I acknowledged the concerns of some of the residents who overlook the project. But it is important to consider that many residents in Somerville are making sacrifices for the betterment of the city.
Those of us that will have the Green Line Extension (GLX) pass through our backyards, take our land, remove our parking and obscure our views – with massive sound walls – did not have the option to stand before a decision-making board to shut down the project. The GLX will pass 22 feet from my living room window and 22 feet from my neighbor’s bedroom. Yet we would not have fought to kill a plan that will benefit so many.
We understand that the development of the city requires change – things will look different -- and some sacrifice. We accept that the benefits to the community at large are too important to reject just because it changes someone’s view.
I encourage my neighbors in Union Square, my fellow Somerville residents, and the members of the Planning Board to support the 181/197 Washington Street proposal and consider in your deliberations that:
· There is no inalienable right to a view -- but there is a duty to serve and balance the interests of the community.
· We need affordable housing – near the subway – to keep Somerville affordable and diverse.
· This is an unique opportunity to demonstrate nationally how commercial development can inter-operate with affordable housing to create a diverse community that benefits the city’s growth.
In the end, this development will endow the city, enhance the neighborhood and maintain or even increase the value of all of the homes in the area.*
1 Fitchburg Street
*An article from The Enterprise Foundation (Affordable Housing and Property Values, 1996) reviewed and summarized 14 research publications dealing with the effects of affordable housing on the market value of neighboring properties. The reports agreed that subsidized, special-purpose or manufactured housing had either a positive effect or no negative effect on nearby property values.