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, [email protected]

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  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  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, [email protected],617-625-6600 x5410.


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 [email protected] 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.

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.


Mark Niedergang

Ward 5 Alderman


[email protected]

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