Union Square Neighborhood Council, Somerville, Massachusetts

In 2019, the Union Square Neighborhood Council (USNC) negotiated and ratified a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the developer Union Square Station Associates LLC (US2), following approximately a year of weekly meetings with the negotiating committee. The CBA set forth terms on a number of issues, including housing, workforce development, and environmental sustainability. Specifically, under the CBA, US2 committed to developing 90 permanently affordable units in the Union Square neighborhood (out of a total of 1,000 new affordable and market rate units). Additionally, US2 agreed to: incorporate stormwater management and other sustainable building practices into the design of individual project sites; design all project roof areas to be “solar ready”; and provide over 3.5 acres of green and open space in the surrounding area, among other commitments.

Union Square is the commercial center for residents in the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, located northwest of Boston. The neighborhood is home to a diverse community of residents, including large populations of immigrants, as well as student renters and commuters.1 Given the increasing availability of cultural, educational, and employment opportunities nearby, the demand for housing in Somerville has increased significantly in recent years, with housing prices doubling between 2012 and 2018.2 

In 2012, the Union Square neighborhood became the focus of redevelopment efforts under the city’s Comprehensive Plan, SomerVision 2020. In order to realize its goal of “development without displacement,” a community coalition of nonprofits, businesses, and other stakeholders sought to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with US2, a Chicago-based developer that had been selected to be the master developer of the revitalization plan. In 2017, the City of Somerville signed a covenant with the US2, requiring the developer to negotiate a CBA with a neighborhood council, later formalized as the Union Square Neighborhood Council (USNC). The USNC formation process was guided by a working group comprised of renters, businesspersons, and members of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, who advised on the election of the 15-member Founding Board of the USNC. Community feedback on the CBA was generated through two “Community Benefits Summits” in 2018, which was attended by an estimated 150 community stakeholders who provided feedback on issues such as housing, access to green space, and sustainability and climate adaptation measures (e.g., flood mitigation).

 

Publication Date: 2019

Related Organizations:

  • City of Somerville, Massachusetts

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