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001 & 13 Somerville Urban Study Aerial.j

Somerville Urban Study

Somerville, Massachusetts

The Southeast Somerville urban design study deals with an enormous 286 acre tract of drastically under-performing land in the southeast sector of Somerville, Massachusetts. The almost derelict quality of this sector is a critical problem, but also an extraordinary opportunity for Somerville, the neighboring community of Cambridge, and indeed Boston itself.


Most acutely affected by the conditions of this site is Somerville, which not only derives minimal tax revenue from an enormous asset, but suffers from the fact that this virtual no man's land interrupts and degrades the fabric of the community as a whole.


A historical analysis of the site reveals more than a century of trouble due to three major rail lines intersecting it. This veritable Gordian knot of railway track has sliced the site into sectors that have been reconnected only marginally by a patchwork of underpasses and overpasses over the years.


The opportunity of this project comes in two forms. First, railway traffic has diminished over the years, rendering the rights of way wider than necessary for current needs. Second, the city has offered to extend the Green Line, part of Boston's public rapid transit system, along these now capacious rights of way. The City of Boston offers to do this at grade.


This study is an investigation of the benefits of depressing the railway rights of way in strategic locations, in order to create a more interconnected, active urban fabric than would be possible otherwise. It is the conclusion of this study that the benefits to Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston would be enormous.

The Site

The underperforming 286 acre site is located at the southeast tip of Somerville and is also adjacent to both Cambridge and Downtown Boston. The derelict and fragmented condition of this area is a critical problem that affects all three communities.

Rebuilding the Grid

Depressing the railway lines and replacing McGrath Highway with a boulevard at grade level creates a more interconnected and active urban fabric. 


Depressing the rail way rights of way and eliminating the elevated highway would generate enormous benefits for the Somerville, Cambridge and Boston communities. It is the conclusion of this study that this plan could drastically increase the build out area in all use categories except for industrial/auto. Residential buildout could increase by over six hundred percent and retail/commercial build out could increase by over five hundred and fifty percent, leading to a more active urban fabric.

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