By Kristen Lucas and Van Hardy, on behalf of Union United
At the end of the summer, MassDOT announced that the projected costs for the Green Line Extension are nearly $1 billion more than previously anticipated, putting the future of the project in question. One way to address this shortfall is known as “value capture,” a phrase that was used frequently at the September meeting of the MassDOT board. This could mean that Union Square master developer US2 would contribute to the costs of the Union Square GLX station. This model was used in Assembly Square, with FRIT contributing $25 million to a new Orange Line station through the Infrastructure Investment Incentive Program, or I-Cubed.
US2 has suggested that while they are willing to explore such a contribution, it could limit their ability to contribute to community benefits. However, the City selected US2 in part because they are “well capitalized and repeatedly stressed their willingness to expend their own funds in the pre-development period and in order to bridge shortfalls.” The presence of a Green Line station in Union Square will make US2’s development vastly more profitable, which will increase the overall amount of money they have to invest in community benefits. How and whether the Green Line Extension gets funded is a separate matter. The idea that the Green Line Extension and a community benefits agreement are mutually exclusive is a false choice.
Funding of infrastructure is a business investment with tremendous financial benefits to US2. These benefits come at a cost to the people currently living and working here. If the Green Line comes and US2 develops without a CBA, many of us will be displaced, and the current community of immigrants and working-class people will not get to benefit from either the GLX or the new development. This would be bitterly ironic, since the impetus to build the Green Line comes from Somerville’s status as an environmental justice community.
Because there is a nexus between development and harm, such as displacement, the developer has a legal obligation to prevent, mitigate, or compensate those that have been harmed. We believe that the most effective way to do this is by doing impact studies in advance to determine harm, then negotiating terms that are acceptable to all affected parties. By virtue of the profit they will make from the development of Union Square and the effects their project will have on our lives, US2 has the obligation to undertake a CBA to mitigate displacement.
Union United is a coalition of stakeholders working to ensure that the Union Square redevelopment brings tangible benefits, not displacement, to our community.
Coalition Members: Union Square residents and businesses, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Concord Ave Community Space, Fr. Ademir Guerini of St. Anthony’s parish, Fr. Richard Curran of St. Joseph’s, St. Catherine’s, & St. Ann’s parishes, Groundwork Somerville, Haitian Coalition of Somerville, Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health, IBEW Local 103, Last Hour Ministry Casa de Oração, SEIU Local 888, Somerville Community Access Television, Somerville Community Corporation, Somerville Homeless Coalition, Somerville Labor Coalition, Teen Empowerment, The Welcome Project