Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND)
Case Study

Assembly Square
Somerville, Massachusetts

This master plan for a mixed-use development of 145 acres of under-developed land between Interstate 93 and the Mystic River provides the framework for a vital new district of the city including retail, office, housing, hotel and institutional uses. The development also includes a new transit station, a water transportation terminal, and an extensive public open space system.

Mystic river.

Why it works:

Smart Growth Development: The Assembly Square redevelopment plan calls for dense, walkable neighborhoods that provide housing, recreational, and employment opportunities. The housing serves a mix of incomes, with special emphasis placed upon increasing Somerville's affordable housing stock. The plan also preserves open space and mitigates contamination along the Mystic River waterfront.

Leadership: Planning for the redevelopment of Assembly Square began in 1979. Moving the process from the planning to the implementation stages required strong municipal leadership and cooperation with local developers, municipal agencies, and the community at large.

Creative Zoning: The City of Somerville created a Priority Permitted Use Process that creates incentives for preferred developments. Transit-oriented development, housing, and mixed-use retail can qualify for the expedited priority permitting if they meet conditions established in the zoning provisions. These conditions include phasing, square footage, use, and location requirements. For example, transit-oriented development must be built within one thousand feet of the new Orange Line stop, and 75,000 square feet of retail must be built every eighteen months for six years.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD): Assembly Square is well-connected to regional transit networks, including the MBTA trains, buses, water transit, and commuter rail; and to regional transportation corridors including I-93 and McGrath Highway. The redevelopment plan for Assembly Square provides the density and connectivity required to maximize transit use and reduce private car usage.

Economic Development: Redevelopment at Assembly Square will result in over six million square feet of new development, more than 7,000 permanent jobs, and substantial real estate tax revenue.

Public/Private Partnerships: The development of Assembly Square is proceeding in conjunction with the significant support private organizations. Private sources have funded creation of new parks and maintenance and renovation of existing parklands, new roadways, a new Mystic Center for the Arts, and studies and designs for the new MBTA Orange Line station.
Aerial concept plan for mystic River.