A Neighborhood
Plan for Union Square

Client Challenge | In anticipation of the green line subway expansion into Union Square, the City of Somerville adopted a redevelopment plan to facilitate the place-based redevelopment of key properties surrounding the future train station. The city also engaged a master developer to help coordinate investment at seven key parcels. Large sections of the neighborhood had also been identified by the city’s comprehensive plan as areas for transformational growth. The key question of the neighborhood plan was how to grow while maintaining the authentic and funky character people love about Union Square.  

Team Approach | Principle worked as an extension of the city’s planning department to create a holistic, neighborhood plan for Union Square. The process involved the management of both private investment interests and a highly engaged community trying to navigate fast-paced change.  Despite these challenges, the process arrived at a preferred development scenario that responds to the interest of everyone involved. The plan has been translated into a form-based code to ensure that the outcomes produce the expected result.

Project Impact | The Union Square neighborhood plan is one of the most progressive planning documents in the country, setting a clear vision that will inform real estate development and city policies, while maintaining Union Square’s character. The plan was formally adopted by the city’s planning board in June 2016 and the new zoning in May 2017.

Union Square

City of Somerville


Principle, Utile, David
Carrico, Nelson Nygaard,
TischlerBise, RCLCO, Zimmerman/Volk, LDS Consulting

Urban Design

•2015 Comprehensive Planning Award by the American Planning Association Massachusetts Chapter (APA-MA)
•2016 Urbanism Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism New England

More Info
Somerville By Design Website

Complete streets that prioritize public life and pedestrian safety are a major component of the Union Square Neighborhood Plan. Wide sidewalks promote cafe seating, public resting places, and street seats, while a new public park prioritizes space for community gardens, bandstand, and open play-spaces. Cycle tracks, public plazas, and shared spaces — like the one pictured below — provide equal access for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars throughout.



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