CAC to help shape agreements over the next year that will guide Union Square development
SOMERVILLE –Eight new members are joining the Union Square Civic Advisory Committee (CAC), which is expanding and broadening the committee’s experience, diversity, and representation of the neighborhood, as the community planning process for the square continues this spring.
The City sought new community members, local advocates and business owners with a range of skill sets and perspectives to both fill vacancies on the CAC created after some original members resigned, and to expand and broaden the committee. The expanded CAC continues to include local residents, business owners, members of the Somerville Community Corporation, the Somerville Chamber of Commerce and the City’s maker movement. New members of the committee represent Somerville’s clean energy economy, the City’s faith-based community, and members of neighborhood organizations including Union Square Neighbors and Union United. The new members of the CAC are:
• Angelica Benatti, owner of Master Printing & Signs in Union Square. Member of Union United and native of Brazil.
• Jennifer Blundell, finance professional and Union Square resident. Has served in an advisory capacity to a number of banks and investment firms.
• Pokye Casserly, owner of Reliable Market in Union Square. Member of Union United and the Somerville Chamber of Commerce.
• Fr. Richard Curran, St. Joseph’s Church. Member of Union United and active participant in past CAC meetings on issues affecting St. Joseph parishioners.
• Irma Flores, City of Somerville’s Spanish language SomerViva liaison, and former Somerville Public Schools family liaison, with a background in community organizing. Parent organizer for Sociedad Latina. Native of El Salvador.
• Chris Mancini, executive director of Groundwork Somerville. Member of Union United, the steering committees of Mystic River Watershed and Shape Up Somerville, and the Somerville Food Security Coalition.
• Emily Reichert, executive director of Greentown Labs in Union Square. Experience with green tech, the maker movement and manufacturing.
• Shu Talun, designer and project architect. Founding member of Union Square Neighbors. Fluent in Mandarin.
The CAC will serve as a public sounding board for master developer partner Union Square Station Associates (US2) over the next year, while providing feedback and input that will shape the terms of a master land disposition agreement between the Somerville Redevelopment Authority and US2. The neighborhood plan that will be created through the ongoing community planning process will serve as the foundation of that land disposition agreement, and the CAC will also provide input for individual land agreements that detail the timing and nature of development on the seven blocks identified for redevelopment in the state-approved Union Square Revitalization Plan. In addition, the CAC will prioritize components of a community benefits agreement between US2 and the City, addressing matters including affordable housing, open space, job training and employment opportunities, support for local businesses, and financial support of needed infrastructure improvements.
Formed in January 2014, the CAC is advising the City on strategic planning decisions and development in the Union Square area, including areas such as economic development, land use, housing diversity, transportation, open space, quality of life, and preservation of the square’s character. At the start of this process, the CAC evaluated Union Square master developer applicants, recommended four finalists and, after participating in due diligence trips to projects completed by those finalists, submitted an evaluation of each finalist and final recommendations to the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA), which ultimately voted to select US2.
The CAC’s monthly meetings are open to the public. Update on their progress as well as further information on the project and how to become engaged can be found at their website http://www.unionsquarefutures.org. The next CAC meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Parallel to the CAC’s advisory activities, the Somerville by Design program of the City’s Planning Department is holding an intensive, participatory neighborhood plan and visioning process that all residents and community members are encouraged to take part in. Next up is the Somerville by Design Union Square Charrette on Monday, March 9, Tuesday, March 10, and Wednesday, March 11. For more information, please visit http://www.somervillebydesign.com/.