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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alderman Pass $25.75 Million Assembly Square Bond

Courtesy of
Circa 2007
After nearly two decades of planning and debating the future of Assembly Square, Somerville’s Board of Aldermen approved the infrastructure funding necessary to kick-start the transformation of the largely empty industrial district on the city’s north side. Last night the Aldermen voted 9-1 to approve a $25.75 million bond that will build roadways, sidewalks and a stormwater outfall system necessary to support the 2,100 new residences, 1.75 million square feet of commercial/office space and 850,000 square feet of retail space, including a hotel and cinema complex.

The City’s commitment of funds secures upwards of $50 million from the State and the developer, Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), to build a new Orange Line T station in Assembly Square, which should be completed in 2013. MassDOT put the project out to bid yesterday in anticipation of Somerville’s approval of its infrastructure funding.

“This is one of the most momentous votes ever taken by the Somerville Board of Aldermen,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “It will completely remake the northern gateway to our city, bring in thousands of new jobs and eventually contribute $17 million a year to the City in new tax revenues. More than that, it will recast Somerville as a business and technology hub, opening the door to redevelopment in places like the Inner Belt, Brickbottom and Boynton Yards. I want to thank the Aldermen and everybody over the years that attended meetings and spoke up about the redevelopment of Assembly Square. No matter what your opinion is or was, you ultimately helped forge this deal and Somerville will benefit for generations as a result of it.”

In order to pay off the bond, the City will use the future tax receipts from the first three blocks constructed inside Assembly Square, meaning that none of the City’s current tax base will be used for the debt service.

“In essence, we’re using a small portion of the project to pay for the infrastructure needed to build the entire district,” Curtatone said.

The Mayor noted that last night’s vote was the culmination of years of hard work at multiple levels of government, specifically praising Congressman Michael Capuano, Senator John Kerry, late Senator Edward Kennedy and Somerville’s state delegation for working to transform Assembly Square.

“Congressman Capuano started all of this back in the 1990s when he was Mayor Capuano,” Curtatone said. “Then when he went to Washington he worked with Senators Kerry and Kennedy to secure stimulus money to help rebuild Assembly Square Drive and other funds to help pay for the new Orange Line station. Our state delegation was instrumental in putting together the I-Cubed funding plan that is contributing nearly $50 million toward new roads and utilities. The state delegation also helped to secure the necessary land transfers and to convince the MBTA to build the new T station. None of this could have been accomplished without our federal and state representatives.”

Ward 1 Alderman William Roche represents the Assembly Square district and voted for the bond, expressing his belief that Assembly Square will unlock the latent economic potential of Somerville’s older industrial areas.

“Some people may call this a risk, I call this an opportunity,” he said. “One of the biggest thing the people of Somerville are looking for are jobs and job opportunities, and we are right now on the threshold of making that happen. This is the kind of economic development that is good for the people and it’s good for the City.”

Don Briggs, President for Federal Realty-Boston, emphasized the ambitious scope of this project.

“Tonight we are one step closer to seeing what will undoubtedly be the largest new neighborhood in the Commonwealth since the Back Bay become a reality,” he said. “To date, Federal Realty has invested $110 million in Assembly Row and hundreds of hours building a community of partners on this project. We made this sizable investment because we believe in the City of Somerville and believe Assembly Row is a vital component of its future.”

Mayor Curtatone also praised the leadership of Governor Deval Patrick in making sure City, State and Federal entities could reach an agreement with FRIT.

“The Governor shares our vision of building the infrastructure necessary to unleash economic growth in our communities,” he said. “If we did not have this kind of leadership in the Statehouse, we would not have a deal on Assembly Square today. And it is because we have a Governor with foresight and an actual plan to spur economic activity that other major projects like the Green Line extension will be coming to Somerville as well.”

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