Union Square developers pitch urban marketplace

The Boston Globe | By Adam Vaccaro
October 2, 2016

unionsqTucked away from a busy section of rapidly changing Union Square in Somerville sits a parking lot and drab cement block building lately used mostly for storage.

With the rest of Union Square poised to undergo a dramatic remake, a development group is hoping to turn this little patch off Somerville Avenue into a new urban marketplace featuring dozens of micro-sized retail spaces overlooking a courtyard with outdoor seating and trees.

“It’s kind of funkier and grungier and weirder,” developer Matthew Boyes-Watson said. “It’s something that’s not available to the planned development.”

His Bow Market would be a small addition to a neighborhood slated for a $1 billion redevelopment that would add millions of square feet of new commercial development, 12 new acres of open space, and more than 2,300 housing units.

Key to the redevelopment, however, is an expansion of the MBTA Green Line through Somerville and Medford, including a spur into a new station in Union Square. That expansion had been troubled by rising construction costs, and the state is in talks about the scope of the project.

The neighborhood is already in flux. Real estate values have spiked as Union Square has developed a hip urban reputation, hosting a weekly summer farmer’s market, serving as the site for several annual festivals, and welcoming several highly regarded restaurants.

Bow Market would have up to 40 retail spaces as small as 150 square feet, leased by food and art sellers. The vendors ideally would be aspiring merchants “from farmers markets or food trucks, graduating to a brick and mortar space” but who cannot yet afford larger retail space in Somerville’s hot real estate market, Boyes-Watson said.

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