Community stakeholders to work with nationally renowned LOCUS organization on Union Square public benefits framework


SOMERVILLE – After an open call for volunteers, a group of thirty community stakeholders (see list below) representing a broad range of perspectives and skill sets has been selected to serve as Strategy Leaders for the upcoming public benefits strategy sessions to be led by Christopher Leinberger of the nationally renowned LOCUS organization, announced Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.

Along with any interested community members, the Strategy Leaders will help create a leading edge public benefits strategy for Union Square that will address goals including affordable housing, small business retention, new job creation, open space, local hiring and job training programs. The strategy developed will serve both as an innovative model for future public benefits agreements in Somerville and as the national debut for LOCUS’ new approach to the development of community-shaped public benefits agreements.

LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors is a program of Smart Growth America and its members have a long history of implementing a progressive development agenda. Many LOCUS members were pioneers of the major federal affordable housing programs of the past generation, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credits and HOPE VI. LOCUS is a national coalition of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, equitable, walkable development in America’s metropolitan areas. LOCUS’ work in Somerville is funded by the Barr Foundation.

“Too many communities simply allow development to happen to them rather than in collaboration with them, but Somerville is made up of the kind of determined, committed, and visionary individuals who can see a better way. This process is a vital step in our efforts to ensure our community’s shared goals help shape the revitalization of Union Square and other transformative areas in our City,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We are fortunate to have both Christopher Leinberger, a leading thinker in the area of progressive development, to facilitate this process and to have such dedicated volunteers to serve as Strategy Leaders. The revitalization of key blocks in Union Square sparked this process, but the efforts of our Strategy Leaders and all community participants will ultimately reach far beyond that neighborhood.”


Strategy Leader involvement will go beyond basic participation. Building upon the outcomes of previous community processes such as SomerVision and through outreach conducted as part of this public benefits process, Strategy Leaders are charged with representing the many and various constituencies in Somerville. Each is expected to give voice not simply to his or her own interests but to those of members of the community.


“This is a significant commitment—not only of their time, but in their pledge to faithfully speak for the interests of the people they will be representing in this process. It is incumbent upon our Strategy Leaders to take community input, work in concert with 29 other Strategy Leaders, and develop a framework that defines how large-scale development in Union Square can address affordable housing, small business retention, open space, local hiring, job training programs and more benefits to the public. With the passion, talent and diverse perspectives reflected in this group, I am confident we will have an outcome that well serves our community,” said Mayor Curtatone.

“Union Square has enormous potential for growth in the coming years that will bring with it walkable, transit-oriented jobs, housing and retail opportunities. LOCUS is excited to begin its work with the City of Somerville, the Strategy Leaders and the Union Square community at large on November 18 to develop a strategy that will allow the area to flourish while reflecting the interests of the current business and residents and staying true to its unique character” said Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS.


Public meeting schedule

The working group sessions are open to the public and will be held as follows:

· LOCUS Public Benefits Session I: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1-9 p.m. (1-4 p.m. background information on previous public processes, 5-9 p.m. review of public benefits strategies and process steps) at Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.

· LOCUS Public Benefits Session II: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 5-9 p.m. at Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.

· LOCUS Public Benefits Session III: Thursday, January 14, 5-9 p.m., location to be determined

Additional meetings and opportunities for public input include, but are not limited to:

· Community Benefits “Drop-In” Session: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Argenziano School, 290 Washington St. (catch up with the information from the longer meeting and share comments and concerns that will be reported to the attendees at the second in-depth session).

· Multi-Lingual Community Benefits Meeting: Saturday, Dec. 5, 10-12 p.m. at the Argenziano School (in conjunction with the City’s SomerViva program with discussions in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and English).


Public Benefits Strategy Leaders

Thirty community stakeholders as well as three ex officio members and one assigned City staffer:

Ex Officio members and City staff member

Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston

Ward 3 Alderman Bob McWatters

Steve Mackey, President, Chamber of Commerce

Amanda Maher, Senior Economic Development Specialist


Strategy Leaders


· Joe Beckmann – Member of Union Square Civic Advisory Committee (CAC) and Sustainable Neighborhood Working Group. Co-founder of Progressive Democrats of Somerville.
· Tom Bent – Somerville’s representative to the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Member, Somerville Chamber of Commerce. SomerVision Steering Committee. Local business owner, Bent Electric.
· Regina Bertholdo – Director, Parent Information Center. District Liaison for Homeless Students. Multilingual Services Coordinator. Member, Somerville Homelessness Task Force. Member, Somerville Family Learning Collaborative.
· Jennifer Blundell – Co-Chair, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee. Finance professional advising banks and investment firms, and Union Square resident.
· Ben Echeverria – Member, Union United. Acting Director, The Welcome Project. SomerVision Steering Committee.
· Glen Ferdman – Director of Libraries, City of Somerville.
· Irma Flores – Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee. SomerViva Spanish Language Liaison. Former Somerville Public Schools family liaison. Community/parent organizer, Sociedad Latina.
· Bill Gage – Member, Somerville Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors.
· David Gibbs – Member, Union United. Executive Director, Community Action Agency of Somerville.
· Seth Grady – Representative, Union Square Partners LLC, owners of former Post Office building.
· Esther Hanig – Executive Director, Union Square Main Streets. Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Scott Hayman – Somerville Community Corporation.
· Stephanie Hirsch – Lincoln Park Neighbors. Argenziano School Council. Data analyst. Union Square resident.
· Jennifer Lawrence – Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee. Former Director of Groundworks Somerville. Sustainability Director for City of Cambridge. SomerVision Steering Committee.
· Patrick McCormick – Former President, Somerville Homeless Coalition Board. Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Patrick McMahon – Board Member, Planning Office for Urban Affairs. Staff, Federal Realty Investment Trust.
· Erik Neu – Graduate, Somerville Academy for Innovative Leadership (SAIL). Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Courtney O’Keefe – Representative, Somerville Local First. Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Philip Parsons – Principal, Parsons Consulting Group. Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Emily Reichart – Executive Director of Greentown Labs. Member, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Cheri Ruane – President, Boston Society of Landscape Architects. Union Square resident.
· Jhenny Saint-Surin – SomerViva Haitian Creole Language Liaison.
· Renee Scott – Founding Member, Green and Open Somerville.
· Derek Seabury – Executive Director, Artisans Asylum.
· Anne Tate – Architect and Professor at RISD. Co-Chair, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee.
· Ileana Tauscher – Associate, Urban Land Institute. Leadership Council Member, Peer Health Exchange.
· Frank Valdes – Member, AIA. Architect for SCC’s 181 Washington Street project. Walnut Street resident.
· Don Warner – Select Development Corporation. Owner, former Union Square police station. SomerVision Steering Committee.
· Bennie Wheat – Steering Committee Chair, Union United.
· Wig Zamore – Co-Chair, Union Square Civic Advisory Committee. Mystic View Task Force. Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership. SomerVision Steering Committee.
For more information please visit Union Square Public Benefits Process FAQ and/or contact Amanda Maher, Senior Economic Development Specialist, Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development by email at or by phone: 617-625-6600 x2528.

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