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Assembly Square Puts Somerville on Boston's Real Estate Map

Assembly Square Puts Somerville on Boston's Real Estate Map

Compared to Boston, the price of living in Somerville is refreshingly low. Here, it costs, on average $294 to $916 per SF, or $2,619 per month. That is a sharp contrast to the rest of Boston, where the average rental price of a one-bedroom unit is about $2,200 per month. Within Somerville, however, the most expensive place to live is Assembly Square. Here, the average living price ranges from $772 to $916 per SF. This is a considerably remarkable change, considering that Assembly Square barely existed a decade ago.

Multiple factors could be contributing to the change. A leading factor, however, is the major trend in Assembly Square's modernization starting in 2012. Then, a major Assembly Row project got underway, with the purpose of injecting the community with the population and economic growth found throughout the rest of Boston. One project that was instrumental in the neighborhood's growth was Assembly Row, which is a massive 45-acre project with a mix of residential and commercial spaces. Since then Assembly Row has transformed into a vibrant neighborhood in Boston.

Assembly Row is a product of developer Federal Realty, which touts the project as one of the greatest comeback stories in the Boston area. The developer started the project in 2005 in conjunction with the city of Somerville. Working with city officials, the developer created a combination of living spaces and commercial areas to attract Boston's expanding population to the suburbs. Over the past decade, Assembly Row has developed into a place with shops, restaurants, and other attractions. In addition to the structure itself, the developer worked with the city to create a scheduled filled of cultural events and ongoing activities.

To get the project off the ground, the neighborhood received a generous gift of approximately $1.2 billion. The project was also funded with over $30 million worth of taxes paid to the City of Somerville. In return, Federal Realty included almost 130 affordable housing units in its project. Collectively, those units account for about 40 percent of all affordable housing units build in Boston since 2010. The project also includes local workforce in its consideration. To date, officials state that one in four Somerville residents are employed in some aspect of Assembly Row. Assembly Row's construction and maintenance also created around 1,200 union labor jobs. When creating the complex, Federal Realty also accounted for the city's dedication to preserving green and open space. The office building in the complex is the first gold-level LEED certified structure in Boston.

In keeping with Boston's attempt to revitalize its economy and maintain the history and charm of its neighborhood, community participation has been a huge part of the project. Revenue derived from the project is partially invested in community development. So far, the developer has contributed over $180 million towards community benefits. Of that amount, $100 million alone has gone towards the revitalization of parks, utility maintenance, and the improvement of city streets within and beyond Assembly Row. The project's revenue also helped fund Baxter State Park, which is a natural escape for residents and towards.

Significantly, Assembly Row has helped improve mass transportation in the area. From the project's proceeds, Federal Realty and Somerville have contributed $15 million to bring the first MTBA stop to the area in over a quarter century. The station is the first on the Orange Line, and is a significant connection for local residents to the rest of Boston. The project also formed connections with over 100 local organizations, which was instrumental in its quest to gain neighborly support for the construction. Throughout Boston, a chronic problem has been the clash of developers' and residents' interests, as developers seek to build large, novel complexes that undervalue the surrounding neighborhoods' historic characters. As part of the revitalization program, and in an effort to stimulate a strong future workforce, a large part of Assembly Row's revenue has been donated to improving the City of Somerville's youth programs.

Since its inception, the project has single-handedly revitalized the area. It has connected residents to the places where they work, and it has brought Assembly Row to the attention of restaurants and other businesses. Today, some condominiums in Assembly Row have traded for a price of over $1,000 per SF, which sets a new ceiling on the area's surrounding housing prices. But for that price, residents have access to local eateries, open space, transportation to Boston, and pet-friendly facilities that they might not otherwise get.