SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville has been informed that the U.S. Postal Service has completed the sale of the
former Union Square Post Office at 237 Washington St. to Union Square Partners LLC, a Cambridge-based investor group associated with arts and entertainment promoter Don Law. Representatives of the buyer have informed the City that there is no formal proposal for the re-use of the building at this time and that they will be looking into the feasibility of a number of different uses, including the possibility of locating an arts venue with a possible additional café or restaurant use in the space.
The 1935 building is listed on the National Historic Register, is a designated Local Historic District, and it is protected by historic preservation requirements. The buyer has also agreed to work with the City to ensure that the historic New Deal era mural, which will remain U.S. Postal Service property, will also be preserved and that public access to it will exceed the minimum access requirements stipulated by the Post Office. Though the intent for the use is commercial, the buyer will also begin discussions with the Somerville Arts Council to determine options for possible additional community uses of the space.
An arts-related use of the space would be consistent with the SomerVision comprehensive plan goals to increase performing and visual arts space in the city, the goals of the Union Square Arts Overlay District established by the Union Square rezoning process, and the goal of the Union Square Revitalization Plan to specifically encourage an arts-related use in the Post Office building, all of which are the outcome of intensive community planning processes by residents.
“The arts are both central to the character of Union Square and an economic driver in the city, so this is welcome news, certainly in light of some of the recent proposals for the re-use of the building. It also dovetails with the clear consensus to promote the arts that has emerged from our community processes,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Bringing live arts to this landmark building would help us move toward this shared goal, and our public processes going forward will help ensure that we do so in a way that reflects resident priorities.”
Once plans are developed, ample opportunities for public feedback and comment will be available, including, but not limited to, public hearings by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, and the Historic Preservation Commission. In addition, the buyer intends to work closely with the City, the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, the Union Square master developer partner US2, and the Union Square Civic Advisory Committee to develop a use for the building consistent with the forthcoming community-driven Master Plan for the redevelopment of Union Square.
“We’ve already seen clear evidence that an emphasis on the arts has benefitted the greater Union Square area, from the establishment of Artisan’s Asylum and the businesses that followed them to the creation of ArtsUnion, which has brought numerous events—along with customers for our businesses—to the Square,” said Ward 3 Alderman Bobby McWatters. “As we work toward expanding our arts offerings in the square through this new use, I also look forward to working with all of the abutters to ensure a good fit with the neighborhood.”
“This is definitely good news, as many of us were concerned that the Post Office would be sold to a developer who would propose a use that would be inconsistent with the community’s wishes. I look forward to the buyer working with the City to present a project that uses the former post office as an arts venue that can benefit the entire community,” said President of the Board of Aldermen Bill White.
“The Post Office is a well-loved building in the Square and I’m glad to hear that the intended use appears as if it will fit in with the well-loved creative character of the Square,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston. “It’s also encouraging to know that Mr. Law understands and is supportive of the community’s desire to preserve access to Moffett’s mural. I look forward to the opportunity for the community to learn more about future plans and to provide feedback. As we benefit from what’s new in Union Square, it’s important that we also protect what we already treasure about it.”
“Don Law is an icon who has spent his career at the heart of the region’s music scene. That he’d be interested in Union Square is testament to the hard work that Somerville has put into planning its future. Somerville is a dynamic, creative community that cherishes arts and culture,” said Greg Karczewski, US2 President. “We look forward to working with Don and his team moving forward and supporting their efforts to reach out to their new neighbors in Union Square.”