By Bella Levavi
Last weekend, a Community Design Team (CDT) led a community outreach session at the Union Square Farmers’ Market to get feedback from Somerville residents on a possible Union Square redesign.
This was one of three sessions taking place this summer. After many other awareness projects organized by the CDT throughout fall 2021 and winter 2022. Toole Design Group, Klopfer Martin Design Group and Kleinfelder Engineering will redesign the place based on the feedback collected.
Somerville carefully considers the integration of the community into the redesign. “The community engagement component of the Union Square Plaza and Streetscape Project is layered with different approaches to hear from a wide range of people who live, work and visit Union Square,” said Cortney Kirk, Senior Public Spaces Planner at the town of Somerville.
The CDT is made up of 11 Somerville residents from various backgrounds. Together they speak six languages and range from 16 to over 60 years old. This group was recruited by a community engagement company called Design Studio for Social Intervention. This group is paid for its work and formed by the company itself.
With this group of people working on the project, the Somerville Mayor’s Office hopes to get some unique ideas about what this space needs from the people of Somerville. “We are committed to a strong community process,” said Ben Ewen-Campen, City Councilor for Ward 3 of Somerville.
When asked what she’s planning, Kirk’s biggest complaint from residents about the plaza would be, she replied, “Overall, across town, we’re getting a lot of feedback on construction. Somerville is going through an unprecedented construction cycle.
The redesign of Union Square Plaza is part of a much larger context of the Union Square neighborhood plan. This guidance document presents the Union Square neighborhood construction and improvement project for the next 20 to 30 years.
“There are very few places to go out that don’t cost money. Restaurants and cafes don’t come cheap, ”said Ewen-Campen. “It is our responsibility to create spaces where people of all ages and from all backgrounds can meet.
“I am very excited about the future of Somerville’s public spaces,” Kirk said. She explained that in 2019, the Public Space and Urban Forestry Division (PSUF) was officially created by the city. This six-person team is changing Somerville’s public spaces, including working to create a better space in Union Square.
“In front of Reliable Market, there is a little slip triangle,” said Ewen-Campen. “We’ve dedicated a lot of the city to cars, we need to make it a place where people want to hang out instead of waiting for traffic to stop.”
Union Square businesses will also be involved in the redesign project. “Businesses are a vital part of the vitality of Union Square,” said Kirk. “CDT is currently holding several focus groups with many companies in Union Square to hear their ideas and imagine new possibilities. “
“Union Square is beautiful,” said Ewen-Campen. “There’s a reason people come to Union Square. It’s because we love it.
The next CDT meeting will be on Friday July 23, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at Union Square Plaza (rain date: Friday July 30, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.).