Union Square Plaza and Streetscapes

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Somerville’s Union Square is the social, cultural and spatial heart of the neighborhood. It is the city’s oldest commercial district as well as the historically significant location of a Union soldier recruiting station during the Civil War. It sits just below the site of the raising of the first American flag, the Grand Union Flag, on Prospect Hill during the American War for Independence. With a network of travel corridors leading to it, the plaza is the hub of Union Square, and the site of many festivals, events, and public activities. It is a square that has experienced waves of

Somerville’s Union Square is the social, cultural and spatial heart of the neighborhood. It is the city’s oldest commercial district as well as the historically significant location of a Union soldier recruiting station during the Civil War. It sits just below the site of the raising of the first American flag, the Grand Union Flag, on Prospect Hill during the American War for Independence. With a network of travel corridors leading to it, the plaza is the hub of Union Square, and the site of many festivals, events, and public activities. It is a square that has experienced waves of growth and decline and is positioned for a new phase of transformation.

The present configuration of Union Square Plaza took shape in the 1960’s when Washington Street was rerouted, and vehicles were removed from the central space. The reclaimed roadway space allowed for gatherings and events of all types. The Union Square streetscape and plaza project will expand on the work from the 60's to increase the plaza in order to become a distinguished civic plaza space and complete the adjoining streetscapes. This project aims to tackle the following questions and goals as well as bring forward new ideas:

• What is the right balance between travel lanes and plaza?

• How can the plaza design anchor a neighborhood while simultaneously embrace the future design of the D1, D5, D6 and D7 Parcels?

• The plaza shall accommodate a variety of gathering in both sun and shade, permanent and temporary, static and active.

• The design shall protect all people and make them feel safe at all times of the day throughout the year.

• Clearly articulate a design position for embracing, modifying, enhancing, or eliminating site features and seasonal programming of the plaza as it exists today, such as existing trees, existing parking, existing Arts Council installations, outdoor dining, markets and festivals.

• Utility design shall further the City’s goals of rehabilitating existing subsurface infrastructure, completing sewer separation, and better managing stormwater through the innovative use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

• The design shall celebrate and respect Union Square monuments and neighborhood history

• The design approach shall establish a construction narrative to identify the order of construction phasing to deliver a new plaza space. The complete narrative should consider traditional construction planning as well as implementing temporary tactical urbanism methods to keep our public spaces active during the full transformation.

  • *Virtual* Community Meeting, Wednesday, October 20, 5:30-7:00pm

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    Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Ward 2 City Councilor J.T. Scott, Ward 3 City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, City Staff, and the Union Square Community Design Team invite you to a digital community meeting for the Union Square Plaza and Streetscape project on Wednesday, October 20, 5:30-7:00pm on Zoom.

    Join the virtual community meeting to hear about the Union Square plaza and street redesign project including:

    • Hear what was learned from the community outreach process this summer
    • Get updates about the Union Sq plaza and streets redesign
    • See preliminary design possibilities for Union Square’s public spaces based on community input
    • Ask questions about preliminary design possibilities for Union Square

    Virtual participation via Zoom; Please register at BIT.LY/UNIONSQ2021

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If joining live, you will be directed to the meeting in progress.

    Live interpretation will be offered upon request in Portuguese, Spanish, Nepali, and Haitian Creole. Please contact Cortney Kirk – ckirk@somervillema.gov, Viola Augustin – vaugustin@somervillema.gov

  • Last Community Engagement Pop-Up 8/7, 11a-2p Union Sq Plaza

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    Please join the Community Design Team at the final pre-design pop-up engagement outreach session on Saturday, August 7, from 11a-2p on the Union Square plaza.

    Family friendly activities and opportunities to voice you opinion will be running throughout the duration of the event. In addition free food and live music from DJ Soto and SAAJ, a traditional Nepalese music group will be providing entertainment.

  • Can't make it to a Pop-Up? Take the survey.

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    We want to hear from you! Share your ideas for the redesign of Union Square's plaza and streets at:

    bit.ly/UnionRedesignSurvey

  • Villens, welcome back to Union Square! Participate in our Pop-Up sessions in the Square!

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    The Union Square Plaza and Streetscape redesign project kicked off this spring and is currently conducting the initial community engagement for the project through a pilot engagement process. The project’s community engagement consultant, Design Studio for Social Intervention (ds4si), will be utilizing Participatory Action Research methods (PAR) with a newly formed Community Design Team (CDT) who aims to broaden and deepen community engagement in the redesign of Union Square’s plaza and streetscapes. After interviewing over 60 applicants, ds4si hired 11 Somerville Community members from diverse backgrounds, who speak 6 different languages and range in age from 16-60+. This team will use participatory action research (PAR) to engage residents who have traditionally been left out of community engagement processes, as well as inviting all community members to imagine and share new ideas for Union Square via pop-up public outreach sessions, focus groups, and more. The team is working with the City of Somerville and the larger design team (led by Toole Design Group) to ensure that community input is reflected and honored in the plans for Union Square.

    The CDT will be out in the square this summer to welcome Villens back into Union Square in ways that are site-specific, joyful, diverse, and double as venues to inspire and share new ideas for the plaza and streetscape. The CDT have initially organized three (3) in-person pop-up sessions on Saturday, July 17, 9am – 1pm, at the Union Square Farmers Market; Friday, July 23, 5pm – 8pm (rain date, Friday, July 30, 5pm – 8pm) on the Union Square Plaza; and Saturday, August 7, 11am – 2pm (rain date, Sunday, August 8, 11am – 2pm) on the Union Square Plaza.

    The goals of the Union Square Community Design Team are:

    • Use participatory action research to empower traditionally left out residents to engage their communities in the redesign of Union Square’s plaza and streetscape.
    • Design creative engagement tools for both online and in-person engagement that help community members imagine and share new ideas for Union Square.
    • Work with the larger design team and the City of Somerville to ensure that community input is well reflected and honored in the plans for Union Square.
    • Create in-person public-making opportunities that welcome Villens back into Union Square in ways that are site-specific, joyful, and diverse, and that double as ways to inspire and share new ideas for the plaza and streetscape.
    • Set the bar for civic engagement on public projects in Somerville, prototyping strategies and tools that the City can use for future community engagement.




Page last updated: 25 October 2021, 10:46