To kick off the series on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in Massachusetts, I’ll focus quickly on a major project, years in the making, that is transforming a former rail yard and small strip mall into a whole new micro-community on the waterfront of Somerville. Assembly Row is the largest transit oriented development currently ongoing in the state and arguably one of the largest physical construction projects ongoing right now.
I was afforded the opportunity to listen to the Don Briggs of Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT) speak about the trials and tribulations of building a project as extensive as this one in such a populous urban area. Don spoke at this weeks Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance annual conference giving those in attendance the chance to hear his experiences with this project.
Assembly Row was started when FRT purchased a large strip mall on one side of the current project. They then purchased land from IKEA who was proposing to build their own store on the site. Their next major hurdle involved a strip of parkland located on the waterfront that was owned by the state. It sat vacant and was being used as a public boat storage lot. FRT coordinated a land swap which allowed them to take this land from the state to expand their development project to the water while, at the same time, building a more easily accessible waterfront park as part of Assembly Row.
Like any good transit oriented development, you have to have transit and in this case, the orange line went through the land but never stopped there. To solve this, FRT decided to, and got permission to build the first new MBTA subway stop in nearly three decades. The cost of the stop alone is over $50 Million, much of which has been covered by the State (stepping up with some $35 mil after the Federal Government backed out after the economic collapse).
Starting a dialogue on the future of urban living in Boston and beyond.