• Development, street work, rats, GLX progress!

    519 Broadway : proposed designRats

    Left: 519 Broadway: 55-unit, 5-story mixed-use development, Right: Rats

    In this edition

    • City-wide issues coming up
    • More real estate development in Ward 5, including a 55-unit, 5-story, mixed-use development proposed for Broadway at Magoun Square
    • Major roadway and street work to continue.
    • Rats!
    • Good news on the Green Line Extension (GLX) project
    • Fall Ward 5 ResiStat meeting Oct 18th

    City-wide issues coming up

    There are a few big, citywide issues that I’ve been dealing with this summer and fall:

    • The Administration has yet to formally present to the Board of Aldermen (BOA) its proposed citywide zoning overhaul, but a draft is available on the City website, and there were a number of informal community meetings about it over the summer. I expect this will be a major focus for the BOA in the first half of 2018. I am anxious to get something done to protect our neighborhoods and enable more commercial development, but we’ve got to get this right.
    • Mayor Curtatone just proposed this week a $145 million sewer and streetscape infrastructure program with most of the work in the Union Square area. He is also asking the BOA to approve a $63 million “DIF” (District Improvement Financing) plan that would allow the City to bond (borrow) on more favorable terms to pay for the work. The Mayor has asked the BOA to approve this before the end of the year because a $13 million state grant is contingent upon the City committing to the sewer work. We will spend many hours examining these proposals and will have scores of questions.
    • The Administration’s proposed Community Benefits Ordinance, which is important for the redevelopment of Union Square, and for neighborhoods around other coming GLX stations, has received intensive scrutiny and discussion in the Legislative Matters Committee. There are still many major and complicated issues to be resolved. The next meeting about this is November 2nd.
    • The master developer for the seven “D” (development) blocs in Union Square, US2, has applied to the Planning Board for a Coordinated Development Special Permit that, if granted, would enable them to move on to planning the individual D blocs. The public process on this has yet to begin; there will be a Public Hearing before the Planning Board. US2 hopes to begin development next year with the D-2 bloc, the rubble-strewn lot adjacent to the coming Green Line station. The zoning the BOA passed in June would allow them to build a large commercial office or lab building and a 27 story residential tower there.

    More real estate development in Ward 5, including a 55-apartment, 5-story, mixed-use development proposed for 519 Broadway [link to map] at Magoun Square

    519 Broadway : current

     

    As we all know, extensive real estate development in Ward 5 and throughout the City continues.  As a homeowner, I receive letters almost every week from developers offering to buy my house immediately and pay cash with no contingencies.  This is why I have been pushing for a 1% real estate transfer fee with the proceeds to go into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  Investors, absentee landlords and those of us lucky enough to own homes are reaping huge windfalls simply because we had the good fortune to buy a house in Somerville.  Meanwhile, even middle-class people and especially families can’t afford to buy anything anymore in Somerville, and increasingly can’t even afford to rent here.  When properties are sold and the owners cash out, they should be required to share a tiny portion of this windfall with the community.

    •  Work continues on 290 Highland Avenue (corner of Highland and Cedar, 7 units and a storefront) as that project nears completion. 
    • 231 Lowell Street (at Woodbine, stretching back several hundred feet on Woodbine, 2 storefronts and 19 units) is moving along quickly now after the property sat vacant for three years. 
    • The developer of the Lucky Mart at the corner of Elm and Mossland/Cedar Streets applied for and received an extension of their special permit to redevelop the storefront and add an apartment on top. 
    • There are a number of mostly small projects that I have heard about in the pipeline, including the proposed demolition of two small buildings at 249 251 Highland Avenue (across from Porter Street) and construction of a 6-unit apartment building with three storefronts.

    The biggest development news in Ward 5 is the proposed 55-apartment, 5-story, mixed-use development at 519 Broadway (Somerville)/87 Medford Street (Medford). There will be a community meeting at the site this Tuesday, October 17, 6:30 PM, 519 Broadway, in the Office Liquidators store.  The developer, Charlie Zammuto, will present the plans & address questions and concerns.  I have a copy of the plans, if you would like to see them email me and I will send them to you.

    Only a tiny portion of this development is in Somerville, most is in Medford, set back from Broadway along Medford St.  So it is unlikely that the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals will have much say over the project. The Medford Board of Appeals (zoning board) will be making the decisions about this project, possibly at their October 24th meeting.

    Concerns so far in Somerville have focused on traffic impacts in the Magoun Square neighborhood.  I don’t see parking as a likely concern.  There are 91 parking spaces in the plans (more than enough in my opinion and that of Somerville Planning Director George Proakis) and it is highly unlikely that residents of the building will be able to get stickers or guest passes to park in Somerville. I would certainly fight against that with everything I could muster, if necessary.

    I am waiting to take a position on this project until the meeting is held and we can hear from the neighbors and the community. At the Medford Zoning Board meeting on September 26, Joe Lynch, a few other Magoun Square residents, and I asked for more time to consider the plans and express our views. They granted that. Their next meeting is October 24th at 7 PM at Medford City Hall.  I plan to attend to express concerns that Somerville residents have. If you have objections you can express them there, at the community meeting on October 17th, let me know, and/or email the Medford Board of Appeals c/o their clerk, Denis MacDougall, dmacdougall@medford-ma.gov

    Major roadway and street work to continue

    The (Lower) Cedar Street sewer infrastructure work continues.  The City’s contractor, P. Gioioso & Sons, finally got through the intersection of Summer and Cedar streets, and is now moving up Cedar Street towards Highland Avenue.  There will also be some work done on Hall Street and Cedar Avenue.  With the Summer/Cedar intersection now open all the time, the project will be less disruptive, except of course to the residents who live between or near the affected stretch of Cedar St.  The goal is to complete the deep sewer work this fall and then redo the surface of the street and the sidewalks next year.  This is part of a three-year, $7 million project due to be completed about a year from now.  The goal is to separate the sewer and storm-drain systems, and enlarge and improve the 100+-year-old sewer pipes.  This project should end the terrible flooding that occurs after every hard rain in the Cedar St/Hall St/Cedar Ave bowl. 

    The (Upper) Cedar Street (Broadway to Highland Ave) Roadway Improvements meeting on September 18th was attended by about 60 people.  The plans were well received, and some excellent recommendations were made by the community.  Roadway improvements, including traffic calming measures (chicanes, bumpouts, a new crosswalk), and road resurfacing, are planned for Cedar St. between Highland and Broadway. If you would like to see the presentation, you can go to https://www.somervillema.gov/departments/programs/pavement-and-sidewalk-management-program.  Director of Engineering Rich Raiche said that he was pushing for the project to be at least halfway completed this fall, but at this point, it is looking increasingly likely that this important project will be put off once again and will not begin until the summer of 2018.

    The Murdock Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Improvements workshop held on September 26th was attended by about 30 residents of “the Patch” as the neighborhood comprising Murdock, Clyde, Warwick and that stretch of Cedar Street is called.  The workshop focused on streetscape design, sidewalks, parking, and other infrastructure issues on Murdock Street.  Director of Engineering Rich Raiche, Senior Transportation Planner Mike Tremblay and the City’s engineering consultants on the project, Howard Stein Hudson, presented five options for improving Murdock Street infrastructure.  Neighbors had many opinions and much good feedback on the options.  If you would like to see the presentation, you can go to https://www.somervillema.gov/murdockstreet.  Two of the options seemed the most favored and viable, and the consultants will be making some modifications based on the feedback.  Another neighborhood meeting is tentatively scheduled for sometime in January.

    Lowell Street sidewalk and roadway improvements and paving are happening!  D&R Paving, the City’s paving contractor, is redoing sidewalks and will repave the roadway on the entire length of Lowell Street.  Work began over the summer at Somerville Avenue and they are now at Highland Avenue.  A second crew has begun up in Magoun Square and is working south.  The sidewalk work north of Highland will likely go into November and the whole street will be paved once that work is complete.  The work includes the addition of bump-outs at Wilton Street, further development of the chicanes that are already painted on Lowell St., and some paint work on the street at Alpine. The first focus will be bringing the sidewalks into ADA compliance, as best possible.  Once the sidewalks are complete towards late fall, D&R will repave the road, which will require road closure for a few days.  If you have questions or for more information, contact Rich Raiche, Director of Engineering, rraiche@somervillema.gov,617-625-6600 x5410.

    Rats!

    In 2013, rats were probably the #1 issue in Somerville. Since then, the City and all of us, residents and business owners, have taken many serious and positive steps which seemed to be controlling the problem in most parts of the City, and certainly in most of Ward 5.  Unfortunately, recently there’s been an upsurge in rat activity all over Ward 5, especially around Magoun Square.  There has been much speculation as to why: a lot of construction activity and digging in the ground that disrupts their homes; a few warm winters; more restaurants who don’t take good care of their garbage; a lower level of vigilance by residents and businesses; less emphasis and attention on the rat problem by City government; the rats are getting smarter and the big ones don’t eat the poison anymore, etc. 

    The important thing is that the City and all of us need to redouble our efforts to make sure that garbage is secure. Without food sources, rats can’t survive.  You can do your share by speaking with any neighbors or restaurant operators who do not secure their garbage well or RAT THEM OUT: call 311 (617-666-3311 from your cell phone) or email 311@somervillema.gov and report them.  I don’t think anyone should have any reluctance to report properties who don’t secure their garbage, either when it is in their yard or alley or on the street. This is a public nuisance and a public health issue, and folks who don’t obey the law should be ticketed. Also, if you see a rat, report it to 311.  It is important for Inspectional Services to have good data to understand the extent and location of the problem.

    On the policy level, I have asked that a meeting of the BOA Rodent Issues Committee be held soon to discuss in public with the Administration what steps they will take to step up the City’s fight against the rats.  There have been a number of innovative ideas for dealing with the rats such as the Senestech sterilization program which was piloted in Somerville, use of birds of prey (hawks, falcons, etc.), and others that have not yet been implemented in Somerville.

    Green Line

    Good news on the Green Line Extension (GLX) project

    The MBTA’s Green Line Extension (GLX) project announced that on September 28, three Design Build teams submitted proposals: GLX Constructors, Green Line Partners, and Walsh Barletta Granite, JV - each a collaboration of highly qualified design, engineering, and construction groups.

    The GLX Program Management Team is reviewing the proposals, and is now slated to issue a Notice-to-Proceed to the selected Design Build team on December 11, 2017, nearly two months ahead of the original schedule.  The change is expected to allow the selected contractor to take full advantage of the 2018 construction season.  In the meantime, construction activities continue on track & signal work near the future College Avenue Station in Medford & the Red Bridge junction in Somerville & Cambridge. These activities will support a smooth hand-off to the selected Design Build contractor & continue a 7-day a week schedule, including weekend overnight work.

    Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation Green Line Extension (GLX) Public Meeting, Monday, October 236:30-8 PM, Somerville High School Auditorium, 81 Highland Avenue.  The purpose of the meeting is to provide the community with a general update on the GLX project and ongoing early works construction in Somerville.

    Ward 5 Fall ResiStat meeting

    Please join me, Mayor Curtatone, City staff & Ward 5 neighbors at the Ward 5 ResiStat meeting Weds, Oct.18 at the Kennedy School, 5 Cherry St. Come for pizza & schmoozing with City officials at 6; the meeting starts 6:30. Get the latest City news on roadway work in Ward 5, proposed changes to zoning, development, and neighborhood updates. Ask questions & share your concerns (rats, trees, parking, excessive development, affordable housing, whatever is bothering you) in the social half hour, or ask questions during the presentations.


    Sincerely,

    Mark Niedergang

    Ward 5 Alderman

    617-629-8033

    Mark@MarkNiedergang.com

  • Cedar, Murdock & Lowell Sts: Street work, meetings & more!

    In this edition:

    • (Upper) Cedar Street (Broadway to Highland Ave) Roadway Improvements meeting Monday, September 18, 6:30 PM at Visiting Nurse Assoc, 259 Lowell St
    • Murdock Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Improvements workshop Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 PM also at Visiting Nurse Assoc, 259 Lowell St
    • Lowell Street improvements and paving
    • (Lower) Cedar Street sewer separation infrastructure work continues; Cedar & Summer intersection to remain closed daytimes (except Sundays) until September 27th; avoid Cherry Street

    Cedar St 1Cedar St 2

    Cedar St

    (Upper) Cedar Street (Broadway to Highland Ave) Roadway Improvements meeting Monday, September 18, 6:30 PM at Visiting Nurse Assoc, 259 Lowell St

     Roadway improvements, including traffic calming measures (chicanes, bumpouts, a new crosswalk), and road resurfacing, are planned for Cedar St. between Highland and Broadway this fall. To update the community on the upcoming work, the City Engineering team will present the plan and schedule, and will discuss construction impacts and mitigation and answer your questions. This project was originally scheduled for 2015; a previous community meeting was held on May 18, 2015. The plans are essentially the same as what was presented then, just delayed. Some parking will be shifted, but no net loss of parking spots. Questions or for more information, contact: Rich Raiche, Director of Engineering, rraiche@somervillema.gov, 617-625-6600 x5410, or me.

    If you can’t make the meeting or would like to see the plans beforehand, I can send them to you, just email me. Please share this information with anyone who you think may be interested.

    Murdock St 1Murdock St 2

    Murdock St

    Murdock Street Infrastructure and Streetscape Improvements workshop Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 PM also at Visiting Nurse Assoc, 259 Lowell St

    This workshop may also be of interest to residents of Warwick and Clyde Streets. This is a follow-up meeting to the one held in late February.

    This workshop will focus on streetscape design, sidewalks, parking, and other infrastructure issues on Murdock Street. Rich Raiche, the Engineering Director, and Brad Rawson, the Director of Transportation and Infrastructure, will present three options that they have worked up with the assistance of engineering consultants hired by the City. I have not been briefed or seen any documents, but I have been told that the three options they will present are:

    • Conversion to a one-way
    • Maintain the two-way with reduced parking
    • Establish an open concept/shared street with reduced parking.

       

    The purpose of the meeting is to hear the City’s presentation, ask questions and give your feedback to City staff, in a full discussion.

    We are inviting Clyde, Warwick and nearby Cedar Street residents as well, since changes on Murdock, especially if it were to become a one-way street, would affect the entire "Patch" neighborhood.

    I will be distributing a flyer about the Murdock Street meeting, but please share this notice with any neighbors who you think might be interested.

    Lowell Street improvements and paving

    In the next few months, D&R Paving, the City’s paving contractor, will be redoing sidewalks and repaving the roadway on the entire length of Lowell Street, from Somerville Ave up to Medford Street in Magoun Square. Work began over the summer on the sidewalks south of Highland Avenue. (Lowell Street was included in the city’s 2015 contract with D&R, but the paving was deferred due to gas main work.)

    The work includes the addition of bump-outs at Wilton Street, further development of the chicanes that are already painted on Lowell St. and some paint work on the street at Alpine. The focus will first be bringing the sidewalks into ADA compliance as best possible. The sidewalk work will require parking restrictions, but to the extent practical, the road will remain open to traffic. Once the sidewalks are complete towards late fall, D&R will repave the road, which will require road closure for a few days.

    D&R’s current estimate is that they will cross Highland in late September/early October with the sidewalk work. The sidewalk work north of Highland will likely go into November and the whole street will be paved once that work is complete. If you have questions or for more information, contact Rich Raiche, Director of Engineering, rraiche@somervillema.gov, 617-625-6600 x5410, or me.

    Cedar & Summer St 1Cedar & Summer St 2

    Intersection of Cedar and Summer Streets

    (Lower) Cedar Street sewer infrastructure work continues; Cedar & Summer intersection to remain closed daytimes (except Sundays) until September 27th; avoid Cherry Street

    This is part of a three-year, $7 million project due to be completed about a year from now. The goal is to separate the sewer and storm-drain systems, and enlarge and improve the 100+-year-old sewer pipes. This project should end the terrible flooding that occurs after every hard rain in the Cedar St/Hall St/Cedar Ave bowl.

    The City’s contractor, P. Gioioso & Sons, is currently working at the intersection of Summer and Cedar streets, which is closed to all traffic while they are working. In order to expedite the extremely disruptive work in this busy intersection – and since schools are back in session and the Kennedy School is close by -- the City has negotiated with Gioioso to operate on extended hours, including Saturdays, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. In an email, the City Communications Dept wrote, “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, however, please know that by allowing this work to continue with extended hours, Gioioso expects to complete the necessary work sooner, and move onto the next phase.

    The extra work hours will shorten the schedule, and will also increase efficiency as a considerable amount of effort every day goes into securing the excavation at night to open the road to traffic, and then removing those protections in the morning. Work will likely continue within the intersection of Summer and Cedar Streets until September 27th. Once they are done there, the work will continue up Cedar Street between Summer St and Highland Ave.

    This challenging phase of the sewer separation project has necessitated the closure of both Cedar Street south of Highland Avenue and Summer Street between Porter and Cherry Streets. The Engineering Dept, working with the Somerville Police Dept, has made some tweaks to the traffic management plan, and with the help of police details, are managing the traffic impacts as best as they can. But this is certainly causing delays, and the detours are bringing additional traffic onto Porter and Cherry Streets, which are already burdened with too much traffic. In an email sent out today, the City Communications Dept wrote, “…Due to severe traffic congestion on Cherry Street, we strongly advise seeking alternative routes to and from Elm Street during construction.” The Director of Engineering wrote today, “…Anything anyone can do to encourage drivers, particularly those heading to the Kennedy School, to avoid Cherry Street would be appreciated.”


    Sincerely,

    Mark Niedergang

    Ward 5 Alderman

    617-629-8033

    Mark@MarkNiedergang.com

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