A new light rail station will tie a long-neglected Union Square to downtown Boston. Low rents drew artists and immigrants for years, but with the promise of transit, rents are soaring. We’re laying the groundwork for Union Square 2.0 with a plan that balances substantial new development, protects current residents, and preserves the grit and funk that mark the square today.
Urban designers to shape the square, architects to design the buildings, developers to handle the real estate, and civil engineers to tie it all together. But that’s just a start. With our reach and depth, the Urban Places team has called in specialists in multiple disciplines across Stantec to add layers of function and charm.
Toronto and Vancouver kept the project sustainable with flood mitigation and green roof expertise, and Sacramento dropped in to redevelop brownfield plots.
Start by mixing shops, start-ups, and arts at street level. Then add apartments and offices upstairs. Match these varied uses with a grab-bag of activities outside: bustling sidewalks, busy public squares, and interactive public art.
This rich brew draws people who want to play, work, and live in one place—without a car. And it attracts growing knowledge industries like graphic design and software development, businesses that zero in on diverse and walkable environments when they expand or set up shop.
But these economic benefits can have social costs. Redevelopment could wipe out Union Square’s distinctive but fragile cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity.
Redevelopment with community in mind isn’t just designing beautiful buildings and public spaces. It’s creating programs to help immigrants start new restaurants, preserving treasured performance spaces, and supporting startups—from small-batch ice cream to viral apps.
It also means thinking about resources in creative ways. Those street-side restaurants and stores throw off waste heat that can help keep upstairs apartments and offices warm in the fall and winter. That same heat can boost rooftop farms that serve ground-floor restaurants, cool buildings in summer, and catch rainwater to run washing machines or a street-level fountain.
Mixing uses offers other opportunities—like multiple buildings sharing a single boiler and rooftop mechanicals which saves dollars, energy, and space.
What People Are Saying
“While the city as a whole has been pushing the style envelope, Union Square is its hipster epicenter, with the kind of local focus and accessibility that make it an easy, and fun, day trip.”Clea Simon, The Boston Globe
“The planning around Union Square’s future flowed from wanting to amplify the things that make the neighborhood great already.”Paul McMorrow, The Boston Globe
“This is the first step in managing the change coming to Union Square and ensuring the right balance between revitalization and preservation.”Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville
“We’re trying to focus on a balance between allowing development to occur while also making sure that people who live here can afford to stay.”George Proakis, Somerville’s planning director
Our work begins at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. With a long-term commitment to the people and places we serve, we have the unique ability to connect to projects on a personal level and advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.