Jan Update: Ward 5 Development Projects; Mayor Proposes Zoning Overhaul

In this update:

  • Comprehensive, revised citywide zoning code presented to Board of Aldermen by Mayor
  • Current real estate development projects in Ward 5 (with photos)

Let me begin by wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2015. May all your dreams for this year come true!

Comprehensive, revised citywide zoning code presented to Board of Aldermen by Mayor

Although it is the middle of winter, Somerville is hot...at least in terms of development. The pace of real estate development continues to pick up speed, with many significant projects around the City and a host of small development projects in Ward 5.

On December 11th, the Curtatone Administration presented to the Board of Aldermen (BOA) a draft of a comprehensive, revised citywide zoning code (officially called the Somerville Zoning Ordinance) that aims to make significant changes in what can be built in Somerville.

This may be the most important issue that the BOA tackles this year and has huge implications for what our City will look like in the future. Overall, I see this as an extremely positive and long-overdue initiative, one that will protect our neighborhoods and permit responsible development. I am likely to support most of the proposed changes, but have already identified some things that I will be working to modify.

At this link is a two-page letter from Mayor Curtatone that summarizes the most important change, plus a map of the proposed new zoning districts, and the draft of the revised zoning code .

The Mayor’s submittal started a process that will last many months in which the Board of Aldermen, the Planning Board, and the public will have an opportunity to ask questions about and discuss the Administration’s proposed changes to the zoning code. There will be a public hearing (likely in late January), public discussions by the Planning Board, BOA Land Use Committee (of which I am a member), and by the full BOA. Any changes, small or large, to the existing Somerville Zoning Ordinance require a two-thirds vote by the Board of Aldermen, i.e. at least eight votes. During my first year as an Alderman, I have often felt frustrated by the limited power that the BOA has in Somerville’s “strong Mayor” form of government. But zoning is one area where the BOA has the ultimate authority.

Current real estate development projects in Ward 5 (with photos!)

Below you will find photos and brief descriptions of six development projects in or on the border of Ward 5. If you have questions or concerns about any of these developments, or would like more information, please contact me.

My role as the Ward 5 Alderman is to make sure that neighbors are informed about these developments and the permitting process; make sure that neighbors have ample opportunity to comment on and influence the developments; to represent the views of neighbors to the developers and to get them to make changes when necessary; and to weigh in during the permitting process on behalf of the neighbors. My priorities are that developments be good for the neighborhood and the City, and that we receive the maximum possible community benefits from developers.


Quik Mart, 290 Highland Ave (corner of Cedar St)

The developers, BREC LLC, are proposing a four-story building with seven condos of varying sizes and a commercial unit on the first floor. There have been two neighborhood meetings with a variety of concerns raised. Most of the neighbors approved of the project by the second meeting. The proposed development would fill out the corner and replace an ugly little building with an attractive one. The developers have not yet formally applied to the City for a permit.

Diamond Club, 311-315 Highland Ave

Diamond Club, 311-315 Highland Ave (corner of Cherry St)

By coincidence, this proposal is also seven condos and a first-floor commercial space, although on a much larger lot. This project was positively received, although some concerns were raised at two neighborhood meetings. The developers, Gwen Simpkins and Theresa Nibi, have done several other highly-regarded projects in the area. The Zoning Board of Appeals will consider their application on January 7th. (This is actually in Ward 6, right across the street from Ward 5.)

235 Lowell St

235 Lowell St

Located next to the Visiting Nurses Association and the Lowell Street Bridge, this six-unit condo project is scheduled to be completed in the spring. The developer is Ed Doherty who has done a number of projects in Somerville. There were two community meetings on this project which initially met opposition but was eventually approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Much of the neighborhood concern had to do with how this project would mesh with the proposed 19-unit development of 231 Lowell Street, Capital Mirror and Glass building next door. (More on 231 Lowell St. in a future update)

Lucky Market, 54-56A Elm St

Lucky Market, 54-56A Elm St (at Mossland St, near Porter Square)

The developer, Houman Baiany, proposes to redevelop the vacant store on the corner into an improved commercial space and to add an apartment on the second floor. A formal application was filed with the City at the end of 2014. A community meeting is scheduled in a few days on Tuesday, January 6th at 6:30 PM at the Lucky Market Store.

Sons of Italy, 563-565 Broadway

Sons of Italy, 563-565 Broadway (across from Trum Field)

This building is mostly in Medford, with just a corner over the Somerville line in Ward 5. It is 11 units with a clubhouse for the Sons of Italy Lodge on the first floor. It was permitted by both cities and is under construction.

35R Lexington Avenue

35R Lexington Avenue (visible from the Community Path near Cedar St)

This is the oldest of development projects in Ward 5, and perhaps in all of Somerville. A group of Lexington Avenue abutters and their supporting neighbors have been fighting this project since 1998, and have reduced its proposed size to the two single-family houses currently under construction, already listed for sale at $1,500,000 and $1,856,000. The developer is Christos Poutahidis. Neighbors have had many complaints about his work in the past. Mr. Poutahides hopes to complete the project in the spring, but neighbors have raised concerns about drainage issues, groundwater, and flooding. Negotiations between the City, the developer and the neighbors around this set of issues continue.



Mark Niedergang

Ward 5 Alderman


[email protected]

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