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Why Somerville's Big Development Doesn't Need L Wrenches

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Paul McMorrow just comes out and says what the rest of us are thinking re: Ikea's decision to ditch Somerville's Assembly Square/Row: "Ikea’s exit is the best thing that could have happened to Assembly Square. Losing Ikea means the 66-acre riverfront development will likely take longer to build out. But when the project is finished, it’ll be a much better product without a giant blue furniture store looming over it."

Since plans for the massive development were hatched in the 1990s, Ikea has been an anchoring part of it. That, according to McMorrow, has been part of the problem: a self-contained big-box store does not a neighborhood amenity make. Especially not a neighborhood meant to be a true live-work space full of pedestrians and bicyclists and those commuting via a planned Orange Line station (the future of Hub development, in other words). The chewing gum tethering that transit-oriented vision with the freakin'-assembly-required furniture giant was always simply a somewhat desperate desire to return the old Ford factory on the Mystic to some sort of positive use. Now it will be, and Ikea won't be necessary:

There’s no value judgment there. But Ikea doesn’t have to be in Assembly Square to succeed, and Assembly Square needs builders willing to run with the momentum [developer Federal Realty] is creating. Whoever winds up buying Ikea’s 12 acres will end up pursuing a vastly different development project than Ikea chased. It will likely look a lot like what Federal is already building — blocks of residences, shops, and offices that take advantage of Assembly Square’s unique strengths, and reinforce the neighborhood-building that’s under way. · Somerville’s Assembly Square Is Better Off Without Ikea [Globe]
· Somerville's Downward-Facing Doghouse and Hub's Apt. Future [Curbed Boston]
· 4 Sale! 12 Acres in East Coast's 'Best Brand-New Neighborhood' [Curbed Boston]

Assembly Square Mall

177 Middlesex Avenue, Somerville, MA