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Zoning OK eases Assembly Square plans

Mayor hails move, but others critical

By Bridget Samburg, Globe Correspondent

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Mall renovation plan near complete

By Brock Parker/ Journal Staff

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Barring a lawsuit, the remodel of the Assembly Square Mall only has one more hurdle to clear.

The Planning Board approved the Assembly Square Limited Partnership's plan to renovate the Assembly Square Mall last week, leaving the developer only a building permit shy of being able to begin construction, according to Natasha Perez, a spokesman for ASLP.

ASLP is hoping to renovate the mall by January with a Sports Authority, TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond and a Christmas Tree Shop.

Perez said ASLP is still seeking approval from the Planning Board on the developer's plan to build four buildings consisting of office, retail and housing space along a what would be a new "Main Street" in Assembly Square.

ASLP is also hoping to build a Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant in Assembly Square, Perez said.

Planning Board Executive Director Eamon McGilligan said the Planning Board voted unanimously to approve ASLP's renovation plan and a separate permit application to subdivide the mall lot into nine smaller plots.

McGilligan said ASLP's plans to develop the mixed-use buildings and the erection of the restaurant are both subject to a more strenuous approval process than the plans to renovate the mall.

The Planning Board will again meet to discuss the restaurant and "Main Street" plans on July 15 at City Hall, McGilligan said.

An advisory board working with ASLP made several suggestions to alter the landscaping and facade plans for the refurbished mall, which were nearly all adopted by ASLP, McGilligan said.

Perez said ASLP is still aware, however, that if the Mystic View Task Force files a lawsuit to stop the renovation of the mall, construction could be delayed. Two lawsuits filed by Mystic View are currently preventing Swedish furniture chain Ikea from building a store in Assembly Square.

ASLP also began a series of community meetings last week at Good Time Emporium to discuss the developer's plans for the nine-acre Yard 21 site in Assembly Square, Perez said. About 40 people showed up for the meeting last Thursday, Perez said, and two other meetings are being scheduled in the next three months.

From Somerville Journal

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Do you know if this project is still stalled? I've been waiting eagerly to see progress with this. The upper mystic river along somerville/medford is such an underused resource. This is the perfect project to breath life into this gem of a location. Somerville hasnt seen substantial growth in decades, and the building of a new orange line station will solidify this neighborhood.

Now if only we will see the green line extension through medford square....

btw, the Goody Clancy website rocks!

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Is this related to, in addition to, or in place of the previously proposed IKEA? I remember the IKEA proposal being (I thought) denied back in 2002, but a recent IKEA press release about the proposed Stoughton site claims it [the Somerville] is on it's way.

From http://somervillenews.typepad.com/the_some...ells_curt.html:

The IKEA project will involve the construction of a 280,000 square foot IKEA building, incorporating the home furnishings store, Swedish restaurant, specialty food market and administrative offices, he said.

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I don't think it has ever officially been killed. It is just facing some very severe community critisism.

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Mayor's mall mantra: Assemble it

Progress is swift, but lawsuit hovers

By Benjamin Gedan, Globe Correspondent | February 6, 2005

It wasn't truly a groundbreaking; developers were only celebrating the start of renovations inside the long-shuttered Assembly Square Mall.

But for the perennially stalled redevelopment project, the late December occasion was momentous, and it drew Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone into a snowstorm to proclaim a rebirth to this ''industrial wasteland."

After seven years of legal entanglements, developers say two retailers will open stores in the mall this summer. And by September, Staples and The Christmas Tree Shops will be joined by T.J. Maxx, Sports Authority, and A.C. Moore.

''The point is to get moving," Curtatone said in an interview. ''We got started and that's what we promised we would do."

The sudden activity at Assembly Square, alongside the Mystic River and Interstate 93, follows a legal logjam that spanned three mayoral administrations and left the city's last swath of open space largely abandoned.

Inactivity at the 145-acre site dominated the last mayoral election, contributing to former mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay's defeat. The issue also generated fiery debates among city residents, pitting supporters of commercial development against a citizens group fighting the project.

''It's the last frontier of Somerville," said Adam Dash, chairman of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce. ''It's hard to believe the thing is vacant."

Today, for the first time in years, supporters appear optimistic about the project. LongHorn Steakhouse is seeking a permit for a nearby restaurant, and the mall's owners are moving ahead to develop nearly 1 million square feet of office space on an adjacent lot, said Natasha Perez, a spokeswoman for Assembly Square Limited Partnership, which controls about 52 acres.

The development has consumed Curtatone since his recent election. An outsized model of the project still covers his City Hall office coffee table, near a ''Just Assemble It" sign printed to protest endless legal challenges.

But considering the project's lengthy time frame, progress has come fast for Curtatone. Last April, he won approval from the Board of Aldermen for a major zoning overhaul to hasten development. By November, the Zoning Board of Appeals had upheld building permits for the mall.

The zoning overhaul, now the subject of a lawsuit, requires developers to build a neighborhood accompanying the mall, including a Main Street, housing, office buildings, and a waterfront park.

The agreement, signed by the developers, requires Assembly Square LimitedPartnership to build the 340,000 square feet village over six years, at a pace of 75,000 square feet every 18 months.

But the timeline does not go into effect until after the lawsuit is settled, and only if the court upholds the city's new zoning laws.

The Mystic View Task Force remains opposed to the project, and a hearing on the lawsuit the group helped file is scheduled in Middlesex County Land Court for April.

In its suit, the Mystic View group says the zoning for the mall and its neighborhood illegally favors developers and cedes city authority to a private company.

''The mayor is confident of the city's position on the lawsuit," said Mark Horan, Curtatone's spokesman. And developers said they hope the judge will immediately dismiss the case.

A proposed 280,000-square-foot IKEA furniture store in Assembly Square is also tied up in court. IKEA officials have said they remain committed to the project, and they recently sponsored a business gathering at a Somerville hotel.

Tony Lafuente, who ran for mayor in 2003, is also criticizing the Assembly Square project, predicting that construction will start and end with the ''strip mall."

''These developers are not here for the long term," he said. ''They can just walk away from the project."

But Curtatone insists developers are legally obligated to build the complete neighborhood. His spokesman, Mark Horan, said starting with the mall will help generate interest in the site, and possibly persuade state officials to construct an Orange Line T stop.

''The fact that we got started is monumental," said Curtatone, who added that the city would net $5 million in new annual revenue from the mall and Main Street housing and businesses, and far more from the building planned for the large plot adjacent to the mall.

Curtatone said the revenue projections, which have been disputed by opponents, take into account increased costs for public safety and municipal services.

Already, Perez said, developers are preparing to request city permits for the Main Street thoroughfare and for an eight-story riverside building for retail and housing.

''It's been nothing, acres and acres of land sitting idle," Dash said. ''It could be a major metropolitan Boston neighborhood."

From The Boston Globe

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T station plan may end fight over mall

$25m in bill could boost development at Assembly Square

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} August 5, 2005

"Twenty-five million dollars set aside for a new MBTA Orange Line station at Assembly Square in Somerville, tucked into the latest transportation funding bill in Washington, could resolve one of Massachusetts' longest-running development battles."

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/20...-+Business+News

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I think it is funny that a new stop is even needed in Assembly Square the Wellington stop is really not that far from it. I understand that no one will probably want to walk the .25 miles to the station in the winter but it really doesn't seem necessary.

I would also like to add that Mayor Curtatone has done an excellent job getting attention to Somervilles vastly underserved population. And to further drive my comments off task, does anyone know if Lowes has any plans to update the Assembly Square Theaters as part of the renovations because the theaters there are seriously bad...

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I think it is funny that a new stop is even needed in Assembly Square the Wellington stop is really not that far from it. I understand that no one will probably want to walk the .25 miles to the station in the winter but it really doesn't seem necessary.

It's close as the crow flies, but Wellington is actually really far away from Assembly Square. I used to date someone who lived in the Ten Hills section, which sits about halfway between Assembly Square and Wellington, and it was really a nightmare to get to Wellington on foot from there (especially if there was snow on the ground). Route 28 is the antithesis of a pedestrian environment. And you have to add the people mover into any trip.

The plan for Assembly Square is to make it a transit village, hence the need for a T station. The area is so cut off from everything else by 93 and the river, the T stop is a neccesity. Adding a T stop makes the area super attractive for any future residential development, and makes for a great shopping destination for people from Boston. Imagine all the Northeastern students hopping on the orangeline at Ruggles to go shopping at Assembly Square (much better than taking the greenline to Cambridgeside).

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The new strip mall at Assembly Square is opening, starting with the Christmas Tree Shops last week. Something must have gone very wrong here, because any future urban village will be right next to the sea of parking lots. It will always be isolated by 28 and 93 and will never be the great urban development we'd like to see. The money slated for the new station should be used elsewhere.

And the new Christmas Tree Shops doesn't even have a notable and unique facade like their other locations do. And they've been bought out by Bed Bath and Beyond, so they are no longer a local, family-owned company.

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The new strip mall at Assembly Square is opening, starting with the Christmas Tree Shops last week. Something must have gone very wrong here, because any future urban village will be right next to the sea of parking lots.

I was kind of thinking that too, are the parking lots going to be destroyed or what? I mean if it is going to be a transit community then why all the spaces? Granted it is still in the very begining phases but there are a lot of parking spaces, and all of the renderings of Assembly Square that I have seen done seem to have it looking more like a cleaner Downtown Crossing, but right now I just don't see how they are going to pull that off. Don't get me wrong I'm still hoping they do in the end...

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They could build parking garages, but even then there would be these newly renovated single-story, big-box stores that won't be going anywhere soon. It is already becoming a useful shopping center for people who drive, and that is most people. But it's not what I'd like to see.

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does anyone know when they are planning to break ground on the next part of this project? I mean the mall is nice and all but I'm curious as to when the next part, whatever that may be, will happen. When are they going to build the apartments, smaller stores, subway station, etc

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I often wondered what the plan was for the old Loews theater in Assembly Square, especially after the AMC merge, for those of you who didn't know the theater has officially closed down. To me this is a bit sad as I remember being young and driving down from Maine and seeing the theater sign, back when it was I think a Sacks theater, welcoming me to Boston, before we eventually moved there....

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