Aug 2020: About the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan Draft
After over a year of public meetings, community conversations, and online engagement, the draft of the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan has been released. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the conversation for your help in shaping this document.
The proposed Project Area is a 2.8-acre site that includes two vacant lots on Sewall, the vacant Star Market, the Winter Hill Liquors building, the Elegancia Salon building, and the pharmacy. The Plan proposes the following for each of the Disposition Parcels in the Project Area:
- D1: The SRA would convey this property to the City to create a new green, open space.
- D2: The SRA would convey this property to a mission-driven affordable housing developer to create an affordable housing project that matches the character of Sewall St.
- D3: This parcel would have a robust community process to explore possible concepts on the site, to identify which developers may be good partners for redeveloping the site, and to recommend to the SRA which project to ultimately move forward with. The Neighborhood Plan calls for a mixed-use development with commercial on the ground floor, residential on upper floors (including 20% affordable units), and a publicly accessible pedestrian route connecting Broadway and Sewall.
Two residential households and four businesses would be displaced as a result of the proposed Plan, but would be entitled to relocation benefits as mandated by the State. (If a private developer redeveloped these buildings, no such relocation benefits would be required.) We don’t anticipate any displacement happening before 2024, and it would likely be later depending on how long the community process takes and potential phasing of redevelopment construction. The City has retained a relocation benefits expert to provide information and answer questions from these parties.
We talked about a variety of different sites that could be included in the Urban Renewal Plan, but many community members expressed that the vacant Star Market should be the biggest priority. We can still amend the plan to include new sites in the future if needed, the plan would just need to be approved by the SRA, Planning Board, City Council, and State again. Staff believe that the corner buildings are an important part of the plan despite being in sound condition because, without them, the development may not be feasible due to the shape of the parcel.
The objectives of the Plan are to:
- Improve Winter Hill’s identity as a neighborhood-oriented main street commercial district.
- Create green and open gathering spaces to support community life and the environment.
- Ensure a pedestrian- and bike-friendly experience.
- Minimize displacement by building additional affordable housing.
- Pursue redevelopment that produces equitable outcomes in the neighborhood.
- Redevelop vacant and underutilized properties into uses that better meet community needs.
Community Process for Redevelopment
As discussed in a previous SRA Meeting, this draft plan includes a detailed process for the selection of a developer for the D3 site that prioritizes community engagement and involvement. A Citizen Advisory Committee would help us ensure inclusive and extensive community conversation about the future of the site and will assist the SRA in identifying a developer and concept for the site. This process of deciding what the community wants from D3 would happen after the Urban Renewal Plan is officially adopted.
Process for Approval
To be official, the Urban Renewal Plan needs to be approved by the SRA, the City Council, the Planning Board, and the State. See the project page for updates on where in the process the plan is currently.
Tips for Sharing Your Feedback
Right now, the SRA and other bodies will be considering whether to approve the Urban Renewal Plan and if there are any necessary edits that should be made to the Plan. Focusing your feedback on these two questions will be most helpful.
If you are sharing written feedback, please include LDrago@SomervilleMA.gov to ensure your feedback is compiled and preserved appropriately.
If you are providing verbal feedback during a public comment period of a meeting, please remember that comments are limited to two minutes. Having a good idea of the two or three points you want people to remember is a great strategy for making the most of your time. Of course, you can provide written feedback to further elaborate on your points too.
We will be updating the project page on how to best share your input as the Plan progresses through the approval process. Don’t forget to sign up for our email list for updates as well.