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Curbed Boston Awards '12: the Best Urban-Planning Idea

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It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the good, the bad and the ugly in the Hub real estate universe. Yep, it's time for the Second Annual Curbed Boston Awards!

Regular readers know that we love us some transit-oriented new development. Like Maxwell's Green in Somerville: the 184-unit apartment complex opened in September less than a mile from Davis Square and next to a future stop on the extended Green Line. Which brings us to the No 1 urban-planning idea of 2012: SomerVision.

Somerville's years-in-the-making 20-year master plan first dropped in May and brought with it particularly hopeful, yet dismal stats on the city's housing stock:

· Small apartment buildings dominate the city's housing stock. Thirty-four percent are only two units; another 29 percent are three or four units; and 25 percent are five units or more, with just 12 percent having more than 20.
· Sixty-two percent of the city's housing stock is pre-World War II.
· Ninety-five percent of it is within a five-minute walk to commercial hubs.
· Nearly one-third of Somerville residents use mass transit, making the Green Line extension all the more pivotal.
· In fact, SomerVision was created in large part to imagine all the development along hoped-for T stops. The city wants as much as 85 percent of new development to be along the proposed stops.
· The city wants to develop 6,000 new housing units (1,200 permanently affordable).
· It also wants to create 125 acres of new open space.

It's that "nearly one-third of Somerville residents use mass transit" that's particularly hopeful. And it's the linchpin holding together the, well, vision of SomerVision: an extended Green Line ferrying residents not only to commercial hubs far and wide regionally, but to newly emboldened local squares like Ball and Union. And with this linchpin made flesh is supposed to come (so SomerVision goes) a different, dynamic workforce, including those in the tech sectors. The changes wrought by SomerVision cannot come fast enough, apparently. Here's Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone astride his Facebook bully pulpit in June:

It's absurd that Somerville, the most densely populated city in New England, has spent 20+ years as next in line to get T service. We've been waiting at the front of a line that hasn't moved. Fortunately, after last year's attempt to institute what looked to be a never-ending delay to the Green Line extension, we've gotten the state to commit to a firm timetable for that project and, so far, the state is on schedule. The Assembly Square Orange Line station is also underway. For getting the importance and impact of transit-oriented development (and for having a funny, yet cool name), SomerVision wins the 2012 Curbed Boston Award for Best Urban-Planning Idea.
· Somerville's Downward-Facing Doghouse and Hub's Apt. Future [Curbed Boston]
· SomerVision Sees 6,000 New Homes, Lots of Green Line Riders [Curbed Boston]
· Somerville to Board Tech Train as Mayor Praises 'Hipsters' [Curbed Boston]
· What's Riding on the Green Line Extension Into Somerville [Curbed Boston]

Maxwell's Green

Lowell Street, Somerville, MA