Tufts Moves Forward with Powder House School Plans

The university unveiled preliminary design ideas for the Teele Square site during a meeting Monday night.

Residents discussed ideas for building "massing" during a community charrette on Jan. 13, 2014. Credit: Chris Orchard
Residents discussed ideas for building "massing" during a community charrette on Jan. 13, 2014. Credit: Chris Orchard
Tufts University Monday night presented initial design concepts for converting the former Powder House Community School into an administrative building and sizable public park.

During the first of four public meetings about the project, Tufts solicited ideas and opinions from residents with the hope of refining its plans by the end of March.

Barbara Rubel, director of community relations at Tufts, said the university hopes to complete an acquisition deal with the city by the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.

Monday's "community charrette" gathered feedback from residents about open space, the size and shape of the proposed buildings, and pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic on the site.

Residents had many ideas, but some consensus seemed to form as a result of Monday's meeting. Residents would prefer one administrative building as opposed to two buildings, and residents didn't seem to like the idea of having a residential building.

Residents wanted to keep a basketball court on the site, but proposed a multi-use court that could also be used during winter, perhaps by converting it into a skating rink. Residents also wanted the new park to include better lighting.

Tufts has hired Add Inc., an architecture firm, conduct design work.

Alderman At-Large John Connolly, who attended Monday's meeting, said, "I'm excited about the process. It took two years to get to this point."

Katjana Ballantyne, who was recently sworn in as alderman for Ward 7, which includes the Powder House Community School site, said, "I'm really happy about the turnout" at Monday's meeting.

Residents "hope that [the project] is something special because of its location," she said.

Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan, who also attended the meeting, said he'd received some correspondence from residents voicing distrust with Tufts, but he felt the community process launched Monday was a good idea. Alderman At-Large Mary Jo Rossetti also attended the meeting.

After the initial public process and design phase, the city will hold a joint meeting of the Planning Board and the Board of Aldermen's land use committee to vote on the resulting plan and any necessary zoning changes.

Ultimately, the Somerville Board of Aldermen will vote on whether or not sell the property to Tufts.

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