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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MIT Students Present Final Recommendations

Students from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning presented their final recommendations on December 6th at the Winter Hill Community School after researching the Winter Hill and Magoun Square business districts since early September. This presentation followed one made in October and included feedback from attendees of that meeting, as well as, emailed suggestions.

The students made recommendations on many issues facing both of these areas including ways to manage stormwater, make business districts safer for pedestrians, dealing with parking issues and ways to maximize use through zoning changes.

The Board of Aldermen is currently tackling the issue of flooding, so it was no surprise that it was a topic of conversation for the presenting MIT students. To assist in managing stormwater run-off, the students suggested increasing the amount of plantings along major roadways and on streets notorious for flooding. One of the provided PowerPoint slides showed a tree-lined Lowell Street featuring bigger plantings and wider bases that would include flowers and grass. Another slide showed how creating a trench beside the sidewalk and including planters could decrease the amount of run-off from flowing into the street and down the sewer.

Magoun Square
Maximizing the height potential, creating more pedestrian leisure space, and reducing lanes on Broadway were some of the major suggestions for improving the look, feel and safety of Magoun Square. They recommended putting a median going up Broadway from Magoun to Winter Hill to slow traffic, reduce it down to one lane and make it more pedestrian friendly. This would also include planters along the wall on Broadway across from Glenwood, Bartlett and Partridge.

Students pointed out the potential of building up the section of Magoun Square from Woody’s Liquors to On the Hill Tavern and that making it similar to the height of the CVS and Privetera building would make the square more visibly cohesive and increase economic potential. Increasing a building's potential can make it more marketable and attractive to potential business owners, according to the students. It would also increase tax revenue for the City of Somerville, as well.

The students also suggested better line painting or a raised crosswalk directly in the middle of the dreaded CVS and Dunkin Donuts intersection of Broadway and Medford Street. Currently the green light facing the CVS parking lot turns green the same time as the light facing Dexter Street, causing cars to run directly into one another. The rendering showed a textured crosswalk with the City seal in the middle.

One of the most interesting proposals showed the Magoun Square Dunkin Donuts with outside seating and the entrance to the CVS parking lot decreased to one lane. The two curb cuts leading to the parking lot of the Dunkin’s would be removed with a one lane exit onto Hinckley Street being added. The students also suggested increasing plantings and a grassy area to assist with stormwater run-off. The still-missing Magoun Square sign would be placed to the right of the CVS parking lot. Another, more drastic change would bring the Dunkin Donuts to the sidewalk and include parking and an exit in the back.

The overall suggestion for parking in both areas was to increase the accessibility of the business districts via public transit, therefore, decreasing the “need” for parking. Although a tough sell on business owners, the suggestions were interesting and included signage along the Community Path advertising businesses in the immediate area, increasing shared parking opportunities, decreasing the parking amount mandated through zoning, as well as, the parking in lieu charge of $18,500/spot for developers.

According to the students, allowing properties to be developed in transit-friendly areas should not need as much parking as required by zoning. This decrease in “need” for parking was also followed up by suggestions that buses should run north to south in Somerville along with the current east to west.

The latest presentation will be included on the Somerville By Design website and will also include a final report which should be submitted soon. Once available, it will be posted here!

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