David Dahlbacka Testimony on Ades Development Proposal (MEPA #15955) Reply

November 21, 2016

Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn:  MEPA Office, Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Via e-mail: holly.s.johnson@state.ma.us

RE: EEA number #15595

Dear Secretary Beaton:

This letter is with regard to the MEPA filing for all four phases of project EEA #15595, “The Office and Research Center + The Residences at Assembly”. I wish to indicate general support for the project as a whole. The mixed-use office/R&D developments in phases 2 and 3 meet Somerville’s goals for jobs and commercial tax base, while phases 1 and 4 include a useful mix of other uses that could help to activate the area.

The following comments are intended to make the proposal more desirable to all stakeholders.

  • While I support the mix of uses, they will generate 18,535 additional vehicle trips/day. To meet Somerville’s long-term goals for Assembly Square, it is essential to preserve traffic capacity for a full build-out in Assembly Square.

In the settlement agreement between Federal Realty and the Mystic View Task Force by which the Federal project moved forward, vehicle trips at full build-out were not to exceed 50,000/day. Please ask the developer to participate fully in the Transportation Management Authority as defined in the settlement agreement.

  • In the settlement agreement, Federal Realty agreed to a $15 million cash contribution to the Orange Line T-Stop. The agreement entitled them to about 5 million s.f. of building that directly benefited from the T-Stop. The Ades Development proposal is about 2 million s.f. Please ask the developer to make a proportional contribution to Assembly Square green space or infrastructure, or about $6 million.
  • Given that the proposed development is within ½ mile of the Mystic River, the proposal includes far too high a percentage of impervious surfaces.
    • The total site area is 438,841.
    • The publicly accessible pervious green space totals 21,807 s.f., or 5% or the total site area.
    • The impervious open space totals 188,160 s.f., or 43% of the total site area.

Please ask the developer to increase the ratio of publicly accessible green space to 30%. The resulting development will be a far more inviting and desirable location for working, shopping, and living than the proposed ratio. If meeting the new ratio on their parcels is not feasible, the developer can work with the city and other stakeholders to develop underutilized parcels elsewhere in Assembly Square.

  • The hardscape and green space between blocks 22, 23, and 24 is broken by a street intersection. This is not an inviting or pedestrian-friendly configuration. Please ask the developer to make this location more pedestrian-friendly, for example by moving the intersection toward block 23 and expanding the green space on the block 24 side of road K.
  • While the development is close to the Orange Line T-Stop and the community path, connections between the development and these transportation nodes run past an existing parking lot. This parking lot is uninviting to pedestrians, particularly at night. Please ask the developer to specify how they will improve this connection.
  • A pedestrian connection exists from the end of Foley Street under I-93 to near the Stop & Shop at Mystic Avenue and McGrath Highway. This connection is heavily used by residents of the area south of the Stop & Shop and badly needs lighting and other improvements. Please ask the developer to improve this connection.
  • The phase 4 residential development at block 25 is far too close to I-93. Epidemiological studies, including the recent Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) Study, show that living near major expressways is associated with increased risk of asthma in children and heart disease in adults. Please ask the developer to specify an alternative use for this site, such as making this development a mixed office-and-retail development and moving some of the residences to a building farther from I-93.
  • The hotel at block 21 is oriented with the U-shaped courtyard toward the northwest. As a result, the courtyard is likely to be shadowed most of the time. Please ask the developer to improve the shadowing of this area, for example by reorienting it so that the U opens toward the south (toward block 24). In this orientation, the space within the U-shaped courtyard will be less often shadowed, and the courtyard can be integrated with the central green space between blocks 22, 23, and 24.

The settlement agreement between the Mystic View Task Force and Federal Realty encapsulates the goals of the city and other stakeholders for Assembly Square in terms of mix of use, green space ratios, community benefits, and traffic mitigation. Please include this agreement, a summary of which is attached, in your considerations.

Thank you for your attention.

David Dahlbacka

25 Hancock Street
Somerville MA 02144

 


 

Settlement Summary

This is a summary of the agreement among Federal Realty, Ikea, and the Mystic View Task force, signed in October 2006.

  • Parties agree to a short-term plan to be built on the land that Federal and Ikea control. Mystic View will support the Planned Unit Development that consists of the uses shown in the table below. Mystic View may advocate for specific requirements (e.g. design guidelines, increased open space, etc.) within the various approval processes, but will not bring litigation.
Use Total Area
(gross square feet)
Federal Realty /
IKEA Area (gsf)
Office / R & D 5,000,000 2,750,000
Retail / Restaurant / Theater 1,400,000 1,185,000
Residential 3,000,000 3,000,000
Flex (Office / R & D, Hospitality, Civic) 1,000,000 800,000
  • Parties agree to a short-term plan to be built on the land that Federal and Ikea control. Mystic View will support the Planned Unit Development that consists of the uses shown in the table below. Mystic View may advocate for specific requirements (e.g. design guidelines, increased open space, etc.) within the various approval processes, but will not bring litigation.
Use Total Federal Realty /
IKEA Area (gsf)
Office / R & D 1,750,000
Retail / Restaurant / Theater;
Assembly Square Mall 330,000
IKEA 340,000
Retail / Restaurant / Theater 515,000
Total Retail / Restaurant / Theater 1,185,000
Residential 2,600,000
Flex (Office / R & D, Hospitality, Civic) 800,0000
  • In executing the short term plan, the developers may convert allocations of retail and residential space to office and R&D space, but not the reverse.
  • Federal and Ikea will contribute $15 million for construction of an Orange Line station, matching the $25 million earmarked by Mike Capuano.
  • Mystic View will drop all litigation and agree that the existing mall and its parking lot can remain in place until the longest term of the existing leases expire, or until Federal determines that it would be commercially preferable to redevelop the space in conformance with the long-term plan.
  • Federal will contribute $150,000 for water-access improvements.
  • Federal will provide bike and pedestrian connections to Ten Hills, East Somerville, and Draw 7 Park.
  • Federal will work to add an additional two and one-half acres of open space to that now specified in the short-term plan.
  • Federal will pay $50,000 for a study by researchers located at the Harvard School of Public Health on the health impacts of traffic in and around Assembly Square.
  • Housing in Assembly Square will be located where those impacts are the least harmful.
  • Parties will collaborate to form and implement a program to market Assembly Square to office users.
  • At full build out, vehicle trips to and from Assembly Square will not exceed 50,000 per day.
  • A transportation Management Authority will be empowered to continuously monitor traffic to and from Assembly Square and impose solutions if that traffic approaches the trip caps.
  • A body consisting of appointees from the neighborhoods, the City of Somerville, and Mystic View will supervise development of the short- and long-term plans.

 

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