90 Washington Street Redevelopment

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Get Involved!

Thanks for visiting the 90 Washington Street project page! If you're new here, please take a look at this narrative and reference material - previous public meetings, Building Committee meetings, and the FAQ's are a good place to start. We had a great workshop on August 4th at ESCS where we asked participants to build their preferred 90 Washington Street! We'll post some pictures soon! Stayed tuned for our next public meeting announcement in early September.

Project Information

The Capital Projects and Economic Development divisions are working together to implement a community vision for 90 Washington Street. Capital Projects is managing the development of the new Public Safety Building. Economic Development is overseeing the development of the community vision on the remainder of the site.

Project Site

The 90 Washington Street site is a 4 acre site a stones throw from the East Somerville GLX station. Based on good urban design principles and PSB project requirements, the site has been subdivided into four areas: the new realignment of New Washington Street, the Washington Street Redevelopment Parcels (Parcels A & C), and the PSB project site, most likely to be on Parcel B.

Get Involved!

Thanks for visiting the 90 Washington Street project page! If you're new here, please take a look at this narrative and reference material - previous public meetings, Building Committee meetings, and the FAQ's are a good place to start. We had a great workshop on August 4th at ESCS where we asked participants to build their preferred 90 Washington Street! We'll post some pictures soon! Stayed tuned for our next public meeting announcement in early September.

Project Information

The Capital Projects and Economic Development divisions are working together to implement a community vision for 90 Washington Street. Capital Projects is managing the development of the new Public Safety Building. Economic Development is overseeing the development of the community vision on the remainder of the site.

Project Site

The 90 Washington Street site is a 4 acre site a stones throw from the East Somerville GLX station. Based on good urban design principles and PSB project requirements, the site has been subdivided into four areas: the new realignment of New Washington Street, the Washington Street Redevelopment Parcels (Parcels A & C), and the PSB project site, most likely to be on Parcel B.

  • About the Trees

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    We've heard a lot from residents, especially those that live in Cobble Hill, that they value the trees on the site. These trees have provided screening from the largely industrial area since Cobble Hill was built. When we proposed 6 design scenarios in February 2022, the tree preservation scenario did not rank highly because it came at a cost of other community benefits on the site. The project team needed to better understand each tree, not just the entire collection because it will be difficult to save every tree on the site. The City has in-house experts on the topic, the Public Space and Urban Forestry division of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD). After a site tour and inventory, they synthesized their knowledge of the site in this memo that will inform future design scenarios.

  • BYO Workshop

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    On August 4th the project team invited community members out to build their preferred 90 Washington Street with Lego. Take a look at the gallery to see what people came up with! There's still some time for your input, if you have a group of neighbors or community organization that want to get together to do this activity, we'll come to you! Just reach out to mwoods@somervillema.gov.

  • PSB Design

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    When Capital Projects was in front of the City Council for funding for the Construction Manager, the Council asked City Staff to advance Parcels A and C with the Public Safety Building. Together with Economic Development we've been in a broader community process to talk about the Public Safety Building and what community members want to see on the site. Since December we've got a lot of feedback about the PSB, uses that should be on the site, and how much development people would like to see. The Schematic Design entry is out of date but useful to understand the history of the project. This is what we know about the PSB project and what we will take to the design team when they mobilize after the community process:

    • The parking garage is too expensive and doesn't serve well as a buffer for 84 Washington Street
    • People are interested in a taller PSB with a smaller footprint
    • It's still in development where a community room should be located - there is a need in the neighborhood and throughout Somerville for this type of space. From a survey at the February community meeting, over half of respondents are comfortable using a community room in the PSB but want design features like a separate entrance.
    • Residents have expressed concerns of siren noise, more information on this is here but siting the PSB should take entering and exiting vehicles into consideration to avoid impacts.
    • The site design should consider the existing trees, there is more on that here. PSUF identified 4 "high preservation value" trees.
  • Listening Sessions

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    After our February design scenarios public meeting, we stepped back to do Listening Sessions to hear more from residents and community members about their concerns and hopes for the 90 Washington Street site. It started with a Listening Session with Cobble Hill neighbors, another option held both in person and virtually, and also focused on reaching people that do not speak English as this first language. The project team will continue to have listening sessions - if you have a group of neighbors, a community organization, etc. that wants to get together a talk, reach out!

  • Mitigating Siren Noise

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    This entry has been created by Capital Projects in consultation with the Police Department (SPD), Fire Department (SFD), Engineering, and Mobility divisions. Throughout the 90 Washington Street planning process, Capital Projects and Economic Development have heard concerns about siren noise – both how much exists today and how much will exist in the future. This response is meant to address both concerns.

    90 Washington Street

    90 Washington Street is slated to be the new home of the Public Safety Building (PSB) and other developments that meet the outcome of the ongoing community visioning process. Washington Street connects Union and Sullivan Squares with connections to McGrath Highway and I-93. In addition to SFD and SPD, Cataldo Ambulance, the City’s paramedic provider is located ¼ mile away at 137 Washington Street. Siren noise comes from Washington Street and surrounding roads including I-93 and McGrath Highway. This area is impacted by regional dynamics that will not change as part of the 90 Washington Street project. Emergency vehicles will continue to use I-93 and McGrath Highway to transport critical patients to Boston hospitals.

    Current Operations

    The SPD does not dispatch out of the public safety building. Emergency response calls are done by patrolling officers that are dispersed throughout the City. On very rare occasions, a high-ranking official responds to emergency events but at more regular speeds because they are never the first responder to a scene. Engine 3, as well as all other fire stations in Somerville, use signal preemption (via Global Technologies’ Opticom system) which minimizes siren use to enter and exit the stations. Generally speaking, the station has control of the signal outside of the station and turns cross traffic to a stop signal giving the station the green light to enter/exit. Around Somerville, the majority of signals have transmitter technology that gives SPD and SFD the green light when approaching the signal during emergencies.

    Police academy training, which is the same for all officers in Massachusetts, requires 40 hours of emergency vehicle training in addition to field training. SFD trains all new hires on emergency vehicle operations. Lights and sirens are used at the discretion of the operator when surrounding roadway users need to be aware of vehicles using emergency speeds. Siren and light use is for all roadway users’ safety. Generally, these measures are used during daytime and evening hours when Somerville roadways are busy.

    Future Conditions

    Emergency vehicles will continue to use their discretion, backed by training, in using sirens and lights when responding to emergency calls. What the City can do is continue to focus on potential technology solutions and the design of vehicular mobility around the 90 Washington Street site.

    The 90 Washington Street project includes the realignment of New Washington Street and signal preemption that will allow emergency vehicles to avoid the use of sirens when entering and exiting the building. The nearest signalized intersections, Inner Belt Road and McGrath Highway, have transmitter technology to give police and fire vehicles the green light when approaching the intersection. This will allow, when safe, emergency vehicles to limit siren noise around the project site.

    Currently, Washington Street has a separated bus lane, which also permit emergency vehicle travel, on the westbound side of Washington Steet from the bridge to Route 28/McGrath Highway intersection. The City’s Mobility Division is exploring separated bus lanes, westbound from the realigned New Washington Street and eastbound from the same intersection. This would allow emergency vehicles, when there is traffic, to use the bus lanes for travel to leave the immediate neighborhood quickly and safely. This may also limit the use of sirens.

    Conclusion

    The relocation of the PSB from 220 Washington Street to 90 Washington Street should have limited siren impacts on the East Somerville/Inner Belt neighborhood. The City will continue to explore design solutions to help emergency vehicles navigate streets quickly but safely.


  • CM Funding Approved

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    The City Council approved a request for $725,000 for construction manager funding for the Public Safety Building Project on October 28, 2021. This allows the Capital Projects division to hire a construction manager for the project.

  • PSB Schematic Design

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    The PSB has finished the second phase of design called schematic design. The project team has a program for the building which itemizes all the types of spaces that need to be in the building and their square footage and the schematic design phase explores options for how these spaces can be pieced together to form the building. That building has taken shape over schematic design and culminated in the rendering above. The building committee has been critical in helping us inform the design and get the project to the end of this phase.

    The PSB will be a new home to police, fire administration, and Engine 3. The 70,0000 square foot building is 4 stories with a 3-level parking garage. The exterior design is intended to look like two buildings, Engine 3 and the fire administration design inspiration is a traditional fire house. The police program and public amenities design inspiration is a modern, open, and transparent building to convey a department that goes beyond protecting and serving but that continues to work with the community to solve complex problems both now and in the future.

    There will several community benefits as part of this project – a pocket plaza in the front of the building at the bend in New Washington Street, a community meeting room, and a south facing park fronting the existing alignment of New Washington Street. The community meeting room is placed to be a jewel box on the front of the building overlooking the pocket plaza. There will be new pedestrian and cyclist facilities on New Washington Street and, when the project is complete, this will be one of two new municipal buildings in decades.

    In Spring 2022, there will be some work at the site preparing it for construction including soil remidiation and utility trenching for the new roadway. Building construction will start in earnest in later next year and be completed in the Fall of 2024. The next project phase is design development. This is where the chosen design schemes from schematic design get refined and coordinated with structural, mechanical, and electrical systems. At this time, the project is taking a pause to check in with the community on December 13th at a community meeting. We will review the decisions made thus far and get feedback from the community at the meeting.


  • PSB Project Goals

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    The public safety building project goals are:

    • Deliver a modern building that can change and adapt to policing and fire administration day-to-day operations over the course of generations
    • Help us achieve Somerville’s sustainability goals by being net zero ready
    • Use design to be welcoming to all members of the community
  • 90 Washington Street Project History

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    The SPD and Engine 3 moved into the current public safety facility at 220 Washington Street in the 1980’s. It was a former MBTA bus barn that the city acquired from the state and renovated for the use. Forty years later and the building is functionally obsolete and requires replacement. The building is inadequate for current public safety operations and, furthermore, has been plagued with structural issues that have led to flooding and leaks.

    Knowing the building needed to be replaced, the City included 220 Washington Street in the 2012 Union Square Revitalization Plan which was adopted by the Board of Alderman (now City Council) and Somerville Redevelopment Authority. This designated 220 Washington Street as part of a redevelopment parcel called D1. After an extensive process, the SRA selected US2 as the City’s partner for redevelopment in Union Square. The planning board adopted a neighborhood plan and the subsequent zoning change has culminated in an entitlement at the existing public safety site that includes commercial uses and a publicly accessible park.

    To find a new home for public safety, a thorough space needs assessment was conducted and the City initiated a site search process to identify potential sites for a new complex. The 90 Washington Street site was deemed to be the most viable option in Somerville after an analysis that identified six potential sites. The Somerville Redevelopment Authority acted to acquire the site in 2019 using the demonstration project plan approach. A Demonstration Project provides an opportunity to not only eliminate blight, but to meet a public need for a new public safety building and provide the opportunity for economic development at a transformative scale. The Capital Projects and Economic Development divisions are now working together to create a shared community vision for the site that will be the home to a new Public Safety Building and fulfill community needs identified through the public process.

Page last updated: 10 Aug 2022, 04:06 PM