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."

More on the Union Square Revitalization Plan

Aldermen Approve Union Square Revitalization Plan After Long Debate

Aldermen Debate Over Union Square Plan Leads to Parliamentary Drama

Union Square Gym Members Rally Against Theoretical Eminent Domain Taking

$1 Million EPA Grant Will Clean Up Future Union Square Development Site

Four Businesses Affected by the Union Square Revitalization Plan

City Releases Major Plan for Redevelopment of Union Square

Somerville Redevelopment Authority to Consider Union Square Revitalization Plan Wednesday

Joe Beckmann October 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
It is about time you - THE PRESS - looked at real data regarding this vote. Since when is "a junkyard, a scrap metal recycling business, a marble and granite business and a plumbing and heating fixture dealer" worth anything like $6,000,000. Currently, for just one example, the marble and granite dealer has property appraised and assessed at $649,600 according to the city's own website. It is hard to imagine how the addition of 35 Prospect (at $512,800), 40 Bennett ($618,200), and 30 Prospect ($325,600) and the city's own land at 42 Prospect ($153,600) adds up to six million dollars. Who's getting what? And look at the city's own assessing department for those numbers - they are public, after all. How did this get to be three times it's current assessed value?
Somerville Home Owner October 12, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Joe Beckmann: That's a very good question. I didn't even cross my mind.
Ken Krause October 13, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Joe, might the dollar amounts also include paying for relocation costs for these companies? I know that is part of the equation the MBTA is using for its property acquisition cost estimates for the Green Line Extension.
Joe Beckmann October 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM
At twice the value of the properties that seems high even if it's true.
kevin thomas crowley October 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM
mr. beckman your figures are so revealing. are these properties the only properties to be bought by the city? were these figures presented at the BOA meeting by any member of the Board? where do you find a listing of the properties to be bought? have you any information as to who owns these properties? are we buying land that we will then be given to the mbta? thank you.
Joe Beckmann October 13, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Mr. Crowley, it only took a few minutes. Keep in mind that this city has a more lively database of all sorts of things, including tax assessments and appraisals for every lot. The Assessor's Database (http://data.visionappraisal.com/somervillema/DEFAULT.asp) and some Google maps for addresses are all it takes to test all kinds of data. I also recommend the ResiStat data, maps and reports for more in-depth stuff (http://somervilleresistat.blogspot.com/). There they have everything from parking to rat tickets, by block, year, and neighborhood. It's ironic that such "transparency" has a "downside risk" when pricing or tickets are at issue.
steve andrews October 13, 2012 at 05:19 PM
isaw you at ola cafe with timmy toomey, chris. good meeting you steve andrews perkins st


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