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Union Square Condo Proposal Could Foreshadow Changes in the Neighborhood

A 14-unit condo development is proposed at the corner of Webster Avenue and Prospect Street, near the site where the Union Square Green Line station would be built.

Real estate developers Vincent and Douglas Beaudet are seeking to build a 14-unit condo building with ground-level retail at the corner of Prospect Street and Webster Avenue near Union Square—a parcel identified for redevelopment as part of the Union Square Revitalization Plan released in 2012.

It's a project that, if approved, could foreshadow broader changes in an industrial section of Union Square that's pegged to be home to a new Green Line station.

The site of the proposed condo building, at 70 Prospect St., is the current location of U-Save Auto & Truck Rental, which consists of a modest two-story office building and garage along with its accompanying car lot. 

The new condo building would be a five-story structure with a somewhat modern design and a curved triangular facade, like that of New York's Flatiron Building, at the corner of Webster and Prospect.

It's a parcel that's part of the so-called West Prospect Block that's outlined in the Union Square Revitalization Plan, which seeks to outline major redevelopment efforts in Union Square over the next few decades.

The proposed condo building is also about half a block away from where the new MBTA station would be built as part of the Green Line Extension.

At a meeting held Monday night about the project, Somerville's director of planning, George Proakis, said, "It's an exciting time for Union Square because so much is about to happen."

That said, he acknowledged the challenge with the proposed condo building at 70 Prospect: figuring out "where it works in the existing context and [how] it will be a contribution in the future context" of a changing Union Square.

The building would have about 1,500 square feet of retail space on the ground level, possibly with a coffee shop, according to Richard DiGirolamo, a lawyer representing the developers.

On top of that would be four stories of condos, which would be two-bedroom units, each with about 1,100 square feet of space.

At Monday's meeting, some neighbors expressed concerns with parking at the building. With 14 condo units, it would have 14 parking spaces. Some neighbors thought that wouldn't be enough parking, and they feared cars would spill into nearby street spots.

Proakis noted the building would be near transit—assuming the Green Line eventually arrives—and said, "We don't want to create suburban style parking options" near transit because "you lose the walkability of the neighborhood."

Some neighbors also felt the building would add traffic to already busy Prospect Street.

Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said about that part of Union Square, "In about three to five years this place is going to look completely different." In the meantime, she said, "It's an inelegant period" for the neighborhood as potential new developments lead to construction.

Proakis said the project could be discussed by the Planning Board later this month, likely on Feb. 21.

DiGirolamo said developers are hoping to begin construction sometime in late spring and that the project would take about a year to build.

Somerville Home Owner February 05, 2013 at 02:53 PM
14 parking spots is enough. I agree that there should not be suburban style parking in union square.
Joe Beckmann February 05, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Why not authorize subway passes for condo owners and cut the number of slots for residents: offer a trade, and a metered (or fee-based) slot for everybody who trades their slot for a pass....? As it were "think outside the five story box."
J L February 05, 2013 at 07:01 PM
I think the zoning ordinance was amended recently for that area?
Donal Waide February 05, 2013 at 07:15 PM
They could make larger apartments with less people thereby needing less vehicles...
J L February 05, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Yes, as I indicated above, it looks like a complete rezoning was done of this area in 2008. http://www.somervillema.gov/departments/ospcd/planning-and-zoning/union-square-zoning Looks like there was extensive public hearings and amendments, focus groups, neighborhood meetings, etc. On the parking issue in particular, it looks like the new zoning requires 1.5 spaces per 2BR unit plus 2 visitor spots (so, 23 spaces), which I think was even less than what was originally required before this rezoning. On Donal's question, it looks like parking spots are based on the number of bedrooms per unit, so that would require even more spaces. It seems like the developer is trying to skirt a brand new zoning code.
Jim McGinnis February 05, 2013 at 10:54 PM
70 Prospect is zoned CCD-55, and unlike most other parts of Somerville, CCD (and TOD) zones require only one parking space per residential unit regardless of the number of bedrooms.
Rob Buchanan February 06, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Thanks Ripley. I pulled the description of CCD-55 from the Revitalization Plan. Based on what we know thus far about the proposed development, it sounds like it's consistent with the new zoning requirements: The purpose of a Corridor Commercial District (CCD) is to promote appropriate infill development along heavily traveled transportation corridors, especially where corridors meet at named squares such as Union Square. Specifically, the CCD-55 District provides for mixed-use or commercial development at a mid-rise scale. This district recognizes that commercial corridors present opportunities for an active mix of uses while also addressing development challenges posed by smaller lots, nearby existing residential development, and the need for accessibility to multiple modes of transportation. In Union Square, the CCD-55 District will: • Encourage active mid-rise commercial and residential uses that contribute to a multimodal-friendly street; • Increase commercial investment in high-profile, accessible areas including retail that is largely neighborhood-serving in multi-tenant, mixed use buildings; • Preserve and complement historic structures; • Discourage inappropriate auto-oriented, significant trip-generating uses along transit corridors; and • Promote pedestrian and bicycle activities.
HeatherR March 29, 2013 at 08:31 PM
This is a lot of hullaballo about "increased traffic" for only a 14 condo building. Look at the Harrison-Albany corridor in S. End and the development around Broadway. Those folks have a right to demand builders incorporate parking spaces, considering they are building up to 400 units at a time. But why should the 14 new residents on Prospect not get to park the occasional second vehicle on the Streets or Somerville?

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