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Union Square

A plan that will drive business and economy without driving out the residents

  • 4M

    Square Feet

  • 117


  • Somerville, Massachusetts

    Somerville, Massachusetts

Strengthening a community in Boston's Union Square

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. A plan that taps the economic value created by transit to broaden affordable options for living and working. Low-income households, artists, immigrants, and young entrepreneurs won’t have to move out—and new ones can move in.

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. Our plan uses mixed-income housing to make current residents can stay in the square. It adds mixed-use buildings to generate the activity that supports new and existing businesses. And it puts local artists in charge of street furniture, public art, and signage. That will help make sure the flavor of Union Square remains as distinct as its signature maple-bacon doughnuts.

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.

We don’t just aim to make a great place to live and work, we aimed to build a new model for how urban communities can develop without losing their roots.

At a Glance

  • City of Somerville

Back to the roots

Our Urban Places group walked the streets of Union Square to learn about the culture, the needs, the wants, and the passions of its people.

Meet Our Team

David Dixon, Vice President, Urban Places Fellow

We help communities manage change to become more livable, equitable, and resilient.
David Dixon Vice President, Urban Places Fellow Read More

Drew Leff, Principal

Having worked as a developer, and for government, I can bridge public and private interests to achieve consensus around development plans.

Elias Rashmawi, Vice President, Regional Business Leader, Community Development (US West)

Brownfields embody our community’s history and future. I translate my vision for what they can be into value for clients and communities.
Elias Rashmawi Vice President, Regional Business Leader, Community Development (US West) Read More

Chuck Lounsberry, Principal

Through design visualization, we’re helping people tell stories of their project from their perspective to their community.

David Dixon

Vice President, Urban Places Fellow

Drew Leff


Elias Rashmawi

Vice President, Regional Business Leader, Community Development (US West)

Chuck Lounsberry


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