Winter Hill Plan Implementation

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Photo of a meeting in Winter Hill.

The Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan was finalized in November of 2016. It highlights three key actions:

  1. Prioritize interaction and involvement with community members.
  2. Develop a pro-business environment by rejuvenating the Broadway commercial main street.
  3. Reconnect Winter Hill to the rest of the city, both physically and culturally.

Since the plan was adopted by Planning Board, the City has undertaken many efforts to pursue the goals outlined in the plan, including the Winter Hill in Motion project. Currently, the SRA is considering an Urban Renewal Plan to further support the implementation of the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan.

Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan

From June 2019 through March 2020, City staff hosted meetings, 1:1 conversations, and office hours to explore whether the community would be interested in the City using eminent domain to take the vacant Star Market property and other nearby sites. The general consensus, from nearly a hundred participants, was yes.

As a result, City staff has prepared a Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan draft. Download the PDF of the draft here, or read a summary of what’s included here.

Currently (8/7/2020), the draft plan is with the SRA for approval.

To become adopted, the Plan must be approved by four different bodies:

SRA

  • August 19th: The SRA will discuss the plan and hear public comments.
  • September Meeting: The SRA will discuss the plan and may decide to vote on whether to approve the plan.

Planning Board

Date(s) TBD: The Planning Board will discuss and decide whether to vote for approval on the plan.

City Council

Date(s) TBD: The City Council will discuss and hold a public hearing regarding the plan before voting on whether to approve the plan.

State’s Department of Housing and Community Development

Once the Plan is approved by the required local entities, the State reviews it to ensure it meets legal requirements.

How to Participate

There are many opportunities to weigh in on the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan draft:

  1. Email comments for the SRA to LDrago@SomervilleMA.gov. Lauren will compile the comments and share them with the SRA members. To ensure SRA members can review your comments before their August meeting, please email them by the end of day Friday, August 14. All comments after that date will be compiled for the September meeting instead.
  2. Attend the August 19 SRA Meeting or September SRA Meeting and share your comments during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. Please note that comments are limited to two minutes per person.
  3. Email your Councilor, who may be voting on whether to approve this plan later in the year.
  4. If you have not already, sign up for our email list to get updates on this project.

Para mantenerse en contacto con este proyecto, únase a nuestra lista de boletines por correo electrónico o vuelva a visitar este sitio. Para obtener información sobre este proyecto, comuníquese con 617-666-3311 o por correo electrónico SomerVivaEspanol@SomervilleMA.gov.

Kreyòl Ayisyen: Pwojè sa se yon fason pou aplike plan ki genyen pou katye Winter Hill la. Pou entèpretasyon sou pwojè sa, tanpri kontakte 617-666-3311 oubyen voye on email nan: SomerViv@SomervilleMA.gov.

Português: Este projeto trata da implementação do Plano de Vizinhança de Winter Hill. Para tradução em português sobre este projeto, entre em contato com 617-666-3311 ou por e-mail SomerVivaPort@SomervilleMA.gov.

The Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan was finalized in November of 2016. It highlights three key actions:

  1. Prioritize interaction and involvement with community members.
  2. Develop a pro-business environment by rejuvenating the Broadway commercial main street.
  3. Reconnect Winter Hill to the rest of the city, both physically and culturally.

Since the plan was adopted by Planning Board, the City has undertaken many efforts to pursue the goals outlined in the plan, including the Winter Hill in Motion project. Currently, the SRA is considering an Urban Renewal Plan to further support the implementation of the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan.

Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan

From June 2019 through March 2020, City staff hosted meetings, 1:1 conversations, and office hours to explore whether the community would be interested in the City using eminent domain to take the vacant Star Market property and other nearby sites. The general consensus, from nearly a hundred participants, was yes.

As a result, City staff has prepared a Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan draft. Download the PDF of the draft here, or read a summary of what’s included here.

Currently (8/7/2020), the draft plan is with the SRA for approval.

To become adopted, the Plan must be approved by four different bodies:

SRA

  • August 19th: The SRA will discuss the plan and hear public comments.
  • September Meeting: The SRA will discuss the plan and may decide to vote on whether to approve the plan.

Planning Board

Date(s) TBD: The Planning Board will discuss and decide whether to vote for approval on the plan.

City Council

Date(s) TBD: The City Council will discuss and hold a public hearing regarding the plan before voting on whether to approve the plan.

State’s Department of Housing and Community Development

Once the Plan is approved by the required local entities, the State reviews it to ensure it meets legal requirements.

How to Participate

There are many opportunities to weigh in on the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan draft:

  1. Email comments for the SRA to LDrago@SomervilleMA.gov. Lauren will compile the comments and share them with the SRA members. To ensure SRA members can review your comments before their August meeting, please email them by the end of day Friday, August 14. All comments after that date will be compiled for the September meeting instead.
  2. Attend the August 19 SRA Meeting or September SRA Meeting and share your comments during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. Please note that comments are limited to two minutes per person.
  3. Email your Councilor, who may be voting on whether to approve this plan later in the year.
  4. If you have not already, sign up for our email list to get updates on this project.

Para mantenerse en contacto con este proyecto, únase a nuestra lista de boletines por correo electrónico o vuelva a visitar este sitio. Para obtener información sobre este proyecto, comuníquese con 617-666-3311 o por correo electrónico SomerVivaEspanol@SomervilleMA.gov.

Kreyòl Ayisyen: Pwojè sa se yon fason pou aplike plan ki genyen pou katye Winter Hill la. Pou entèpretasyon sou pwojè sa, tanpri kontakte 617-666-3311 oubyen voye on email nan: SomerViv@SomervilleMA.gov.

Português: Este projeto trata da implementação do Plano de Vizinhança de Winter Hill. Para tradução em português sobre este projeto, entre em contato com 617-666-3311 ou por e-mail SomerVivaPort@SomervilleMA.gov.

  • About the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan Draft

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    1 day ago

    After over a year of public meetings, community conversations, and online engagement, the draft of the Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan has been released. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the conversation for your help in shaping this document.

    Project Area

    The proposed Project Area is a 2.8-acre site that includes two vacant lots on Sewall, the vacant Star Market, the Winter Hill Liquors building, the Elegancia Salon building, and the pharmacy. The Plan proposes the following for each of the Disposition Parcels in the Project Area:

    • D1: The SRA would convey this property to the City to create a new green, open space.
    • D2: The SRA would convey this property to a mission-driven affordable housing developer to create an affordable housing project that matches the character of Sewall St.
    • D3: This parcel would have a robust community process to explore possible concepts on the site, to identify which developers may be good partners for redeveloping the site, and to recommend to the SRA which project to ultimately move forward with. The Neighborhood Plan calls for a mixed-use development with commercial on the ground floor, residential on upper floors (including 20% affordable units), and a publicly accessible pedestrian route connecting Broadway and Sewall.

    Two residential households and four businesses would be displaced as a result of the proposed Plan, but would be entitled to relocation benefits as mandated by the State. (If a private developer redeveloped these buildings, no such relocation benefits would be required.) We don’t anticipate any displacement happening before 2024, and it would likely be later depending on how long the community process takes and potential phasing of redevelopment construction. The City has retained a relocation benefits expert to provide information and answer questions from these parties.

    We talked about a variety of different sites that could be included in the Urban Renewal Plan, but many community members expressed that the vacant Star Market should be the biggest priority. We can still amend the plan to include new sites in the future if needed, the plan would just need to be approved by the SRA, Planning Board, City Council, and State again. Staff believe that the corner buildings are an important part of the plan despite being in sound condition because, without them, the development may not be feasible due to the shape of the parcel.

    Objectives

    The objectives of the Plan are to:

    • Improve Winter Hill’s identity as a neighborhood-oriented main street commercial district.
    • Create green and open gathering spaces to support community life and the environment.
    • Ensure a pedestrian- and bike-friendly experience.
    • Minimize displacement by building additional affordable housing.
    • Pursue redevelopment that produces equitable outcomes in the neighborhood.
    • Redevelop vacant and underutilized properties into uses that better meet community needs.

    Community Process for Redevelopment

    As discussed in a previous SRA Meeting, this draft plan includes a detailed process for the selection of a developer for the D3 site that prioritizes community engagement and involvement. A Citizen Advisory Committee would help us ensure inclusive and extensive community conversation about the future of the site and will assist the SRA in identifying a developer and concept for the site. This process of deciding what the community wants from D3 would happen after the Urban Renewal Plan is officially adopted.

    Process for Approval

    To be official, the Urban Renewal Plan needs to be approved by the SRA, the City Council, the Planning Board, and the State. See the project page for updates on where in the process the plan is currently.

    Tips for Sharing Your Feedback

    Right now, the SRA and other bodies will be considering whether to approve the Urban Renewal Plan and if there are any necessary edits that should be made to the Plan. Focusing your feedback on these two questions will be most helpful.

    If you are sharing written feedback, please include LDrago@SomervilleMA.gov to ensure your feedback is compiled and preserved appropriately.

    If you are providing verbal feedback during a public comment period of a meeting, please remember that comments are limited to two minutes. Having a good idea of the two or three points you want people to remember is a great strategy for making the most of your time. Of course, you can provide written feedback to further elaborate on your points too.

    We will be updating the project page on how to best share your input as the Plan progresses through the approval process. Don’t forget to sign up for our email list for updates as well.

  • Upcoming Meetings about Winter Hill Plan Implementation

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    7 months ago

    The City is gathering feedback about whether an urban renewal plan might be the right path forward for Winter Hill, particularly for the Star Market site. If an urban renewal plan is the next step, are there other sites that should be included in the Winter Hill neighborhood? We are listening to community input through early February and we would like your perspective at one of our upcoming meetings.

    All are welcome at the following events to ask questions or share feedback in person. None of the information has changed since our December 17th meeting, so you can pick which session to attend or simply weigh in online. Please note some upcoming dates have shifted!

    Community Meeting with Portuguese Interpretation
    This repeat of our 12/17 meeting will be held mostly in Portuguese, but all are welcome.
    Thursday, January 23 | 5:00pm-7:00pm
    Brazilian Times Office, 311 Broadway, Somerville, MA

    Winter Hill Community Meeting
    Co-hosted by Ward 4 Councilor Jesse Clingan and Winter Hill Brewing Co., this repeat of our 12/17 meeting is specifically targeting business and property owners, but all are welcome.
    Monday, February 3 | 4:00pm-6:00pm
    Winter Hill Brewing Company, 328 Broadway, Somerville, MA

    Don't forget that you can also submit your feedback online. There are also opportunities to ask questions and suggest ideas for what you'd like to see in the neighborhood.
  • Which sites could be included in a Winter Hill urban renewal plan?

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    7 months ago

    The conversation about an urban renewal plan in Winter Hill started because of the vacant Star Market site in the neighborhood. As we collect feedback about this, City staff would also like input on what other sites the community may be interested in focusing on as part of an urban renewal plan. In this post, we highlight some of the possible sites that could be included in a Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan and what was imagined for these sites in the Neighborhood Plan. Download this PDF to see all of the renderings and images for each property.

    Star Market Site

    Although we refer to the Star Market site as such, this site also includes the Walgreens, Winter Hill Liquor Store and Brazilian Times building, and the Elegancia Barber Shop.

    The Neighborhood Plan calls for a five-story development on the whole site that allows for 200 new housing units with 28,000 square feet of retail and a half acre of publicly accessible open space. Recently, a private developer was interested in this site but was not ultimately able to make the deal. The developer, after conversations with the community, imagined a 6-story project with 310 housing units, 25,000 square feet of retail, and 1 acre of publicly accessible open space.

    Whitcomb Place

    This site includes the vacant Walgreens, CareWell Urgent Care, and Winter Hill Bank. The Neighborhood Plan envisions a new development that would connect Broadway to Heath Street for pedestrians and incorporate .4 acres of open space. The new buildings could be four stories with 130 housing units and 8,700 square feet of retail. The idea would be to contemplate the four-story buildings adjacent to the property while still preserving the character of Heath Street.

    Brewery Block

    The Brewery Block includes the Winter Hill Brewery Block, Citizens Bank, the Post Office, and some surrounding properties. The idea is not to do a major redevelopment on the site, but rather to focus on fixing the street network. Many different property owners are involved in this site. The Neighborhood Plan calls for a reconfiguration of the area to allow for better circulation of people and cars, additional open space, and maybe the building of a house or two. The Plan also imagines preserving the post office building, Winter Hill Brewery, and the residential building while redeveloping the single-story commercial building and the Citizens Bank property. The redevelopment efforts could be four or five stories with about 80 units of housing and .2 acres of open space, as well as current ground-floor retail.

    Foss Parking

    Another opportunity site identified in the Neighborhood Plan is to transform the City-owned parking alongside Foss Park into additional open space that can complement the park. The Neighborhood Plan imagines how incorporating the pavement into Foss Park could provide more space for assets in the park and a more environmentally-friendly and beautiful walk along Broadway. There is space for some small businesses that could provide concessions for the park and an opportunity to increase the gathering green space.


    If this site becomes a part of a Winter Hill Urban Renewal Plan, the existing community process to rethink Foss Park would play a big role in determining how to use this potential extra space. Interested in participating in that conversation? Check it out here.

    What happens to the property owners and tenants of a property that ends up in an urban renewal plan?

    Inclusion in an urban renewal plan makes it possible for the Somerville Redevelopment Authority to take a property, but that doesn't necessarily happen right away. When a property is taken, the property owner is paid a fair market value, which is determined by a specific legally prescribed process.

    Any tenants--businesses or residents--who would be displaced through a taking receive financial and site search assistance to relocate. Businesses who do not wish to be relocated can be bought out.

    How can you get involved?

    We are seeking input from the community about whether we should pursue an urban renewal plan at all, and whether any sites besides Star Market should be included in such a plan. Visit the SomerVoice project page for up-to-date information about how to share your input.

  • Notes from 12/17 Winter Hill Meeting

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    8 months ago

    We had about forty-five people brave the terrible winter weather and join us at the Healey School on December 17th at 7pm for a discussion about the Star Market site, including Ward 4 Councilor Jesse Clingan, Ward 4 Councilor Mark Niedergang, Ward 4 School Committee Member Andre Green, and Representative Christine Barber. Staff initially planned on an open-house style meeting, but attendees decided a presentation would be more effective in the moment. Following are the topics we covered.

    First, City staff reviewed urban renewal as a method for taking the vacant, blighted Star Market site and redeveloping the property (the history of this conversation is covered here).

    Some of the key takeaways (full handout can be downloaded here):

    • An urban renewal plan is a tool that can help us implement the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan. It gives the Somerville Redevelopment Authority the power to take blighted property and turn it into something that better fits community needs.
    • Urban renewal plans are not just about taking property: an urban renewal plan can also encourage property owners to improve their properties and identify other strategies for implementing the Winter Hill Neighborhood Plan.
    • Any business or household displaced through the taking of property through an urban renewal plan must have their relocation expenses paid for. Any property owner whose property is taken receives a legally-defined fair market value for that property.
    • An urban renewal plan must be approved by the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, the Somerville Planning Board, the Somerville City Council, and the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
    An urban renewal plan can include many properties, although the Somerville Redevelopment Authority may not exercise its right to take by eminent domain all of the properties in an urban renewal plan. However, it is a lot of work to add a new property onto an existing urban renewal plan, so staff shared some of the opportunity properties identified in the Neighborhood Plan to gather feedback about which properties might be worth including in the plan. See the posters we created about each site here.
    • Star Market - This site includes not only the Star Market, but the existing Walgreens, and the two buildings at the corner of Broadway and Temple. The Neighborhood Plan conceptualizes a mixed-use development with housing and commercial space and a half-acre of publicly-accessible open space. (Poster of the site project here.)
    • Whitcomb Block - This site includes the CareWell Urgent Care, the vacant Walgreens, and the Winter Hill Bank Loan Center. The Neighborhood Plan conceptualizes a mixed-use development with housing and commercial space and a pedestrian walkway through the site to Langmaid Ave.
    • Brewery Block - This site includes Citizen Bank at Broadway and School Street through Shivalic at Broadway and Marshall St. However, the priority in the Neighborhood Plan is extending Bradford Ave to improve pedestrian circulation in the area and create additional green space and possibly enough space to build two new houses. There is also an opportunity to redevelop the Citizen Bank site and the single-story building, but the Neighborhood Plan suggests leaving the post office building, Winter Hill Brewery building, and multifamily residential building as-is.
    • Foss Pavement - This is an unusual candidate for inclusion because the City already owns the land in question. Currently, there is a thin strip of green space and pull-in parking alongside Foss on the Broadway side. The Neighborhood Plan envisions revisiting this space to increase the overall green space, add amenities to the park like splash pads and playgrounds, and potentially create a single-story building that could sell food for park users. Putting this site in our plan would help prioritize this effort, but the planning for how to use the site will be conducted as part of the Foss Park planning effort.
    We had a lively discussion with participants about the different community priorities (affordable housing, the need for a pharmacy in the neighborhood, affordable commercial space, and preservation of businesses that support the community were some mentioned), and the pros and cons of urban renewal in the neighborhood.

    Winter Hill Meeting Votes

    We asked participants to vote with dots to indicate their interest in pursuing an urban renewal plan and in which sites should be included. Not everyone present voted, but 88% of those who did supported an urban renewal plan. Star Market, Whitcomb Block, and Foss Pavement were the sites people wanted included. The Brewery Block had more of a split vote, with 54% preferring it not be included.
















    Finally, participants listed some general comments, ideas, and concerns for staff to keep in mind. Staff has attempted to edit these for clarity, but the original notes are here:
    • If we are to use eminent domain, I feel that what we build should serve the community with affordable housing, community centers, outdoor civic space and affordable commercial.
    • We should create a Bow Market type of space for businesses to go while displaced by construction.
    • Condos are cancerous for this city. Please remember ALL Somerville residents.
    • Star Market owner parcels only - do not use eminent domain on the two parcels in the Star Market site that have different owners.
    • Create mixed-income public housing like Clarendon.
    • I would like to see the bottom floor for civic or non-profit use
    • Affordable housing and green space
    • Affordable and accessible housing
    • Somerville Community Land Trust should put housing on these sites.
    • What's going on with Circuit City?
    • Build as much housing as possible
    • Can formula businesses subsidize arts and community space or affordable commercial for non-profits? Can that be worked in as a contingency for granting a special permit?
    • Stay focused. You will get most support for star Market. Done is better than perfect.
    For those who were unable to attend the meeting, there are plenty of ways to share your input through January. Visit the SomerVoice project page to learn more. This meeting is just the beginning of several weeks of outreach to gather more feedback.
  • Update on the Vacant Star Market Site

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    8 months ago

    The Star Market site in Broadway has been vacant since 2007. That this large, centrally-located site has been blighted for so long has been a frustration to the surrounding community. In June 2019, we held a community meeting to explore whether the community would be interested in the City taking aggressive action on the site. Specifically, did residents want the City to use eminent domain to take the property? As you can see from the meeting notes, the overwhelming majority of participants wanted the City to consider taking the property.

    At this meeting, staff presented two similar paths to take the property--a demonstration project or urban renewal. The demonstration project received the most votes as the preferred path, we think because it would be a quicker process and only focus on the Star Market site. Unfortunately, subsequent conversations with City legal counsel suggest that pursuing a demonstration project plan on this particular site may stall the project. Therefore, the remaining options are to wait for private development on the site or to pursue an urban renewal plan.

    As a result, City staff is seeking feedback on two key questions. First, is an urban renewal plan the right path forward for the Star Market site? Second, if we do pursue an urban renewal plan, what should it look like?

    We want to hear from you! We will be gathering feedback about these two questions throughout January. Here is how to get involved in the conversation:

    Attend the community meeting. We will have an open house style meeting with stations for these different questions. Talk to staff and your neighbors about what you think is the right path forward.

    Tuesday, December 17th from 6:00-7:30pm

    Healey School (5 Meacham St, Somerville, MA).

    Use the SomerVoice website. We will be posting more information and opportunities to share your feedback to this page after December 17th meeting.

    Join us for office hours. City staff will be working in the neighborhood and available to answer questions or chat about this project. Check the SomerVoice page, as we will update it with new sessions as they are scheduled.

    Stay in touch. You can follow this project by creating a SomerVoice account, or you can sign up for the email list here.


  • Summary of June 19th Meeting

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    11 months ago

    The City appreciates the big turnout (over 90 people!) to talk about the vacant Star Market site at our June 19th meeting. Tom Galligani and Lauren Drago from the Economic Development Division presented on three different paths forward for the 299 Broadway site, and then took questions and comments from the audience. You can download the slides here. At the end of the meeting, participants were invited to vote on their preferred strategy and post any additional comments they wanted to share.

    Voting Results from 6/19/19 Meeting

    Results of our Survey
    Option 1: Wait and See - This strategy is essentially what we've been doing, waiting for a developer to figure out how to make a project work on the site. 4 votes.
    Option 2: Urban Renewal - This strategy would involve writing an urban renewal plan, possibly including additional sites in the neighborhood, and receiving state approval. 21 votes.
    Option 3: Demonstration Project - This strategy would involve writing a demonstration project plan, which would focus only on this block and not require state approval. 54 votes.
    Five additional voters wanted either Option 2 or Option 3.
    Next Steps
    Additional Outreach: We will be talking to Portuguese-speaking neighbors through online channels and blockwalking to businesses to share what we've learned so far and gather additional input. In addition, we have already shared the results of this meeting with the Somerville Redevelopment Authority and will continue to talk with City Council, the SRA, and City staff to determine appropriate next steps.
    Further Communication: We are working to build a website about this project to provide more information. As additional meetings and discussions are scheduled, we will promote them to this list.