Earlier this year, Ari Kalos launched iLoveSomerville, an app that gives socially-minded ‘Villens a place to post news, share photos and crowdsource answers to questions like, “Where can I get free wifi in Somerville?” There’s an Instagram feed that collects photos that are tagged #Somerville, a local job board and a messaging platform.
But while Kalos has worked in web design and developed apps before, it isn’t necessarily the cutting-edge, tech-startup, “New Somerville” stuff that he likes about this community.
“I really, really, really love the historical part of Somerville,” he explains. A lifelong resident of the city, he says he grew up here during a time when Somerville “didn’t have the best reputation.” He wanted to share that love with people who may have written the city off in decades past, so in addition to updates about Union Square Donuts and lists from Uber, the app is also a place where people can learn about the area’s rich history.
With iLoveSomerville, Kalos is trying to unite new and old Somerville. “Somerville is such a hotbed of these new, cool places and restaurants and bars and donut shops—everything you could imagine,” he explains. But it’s also, for many, a temporary home; while there are plenty of lifelong residents like Kalos, students, young professionals and other more transient populations come and go. Ideally, iLoveSomerville will help both groups, giving Tufts students a tool to make the most of what might be a short time here while showing longtime residents some lesser-known shops and restaurants. “I still need help discovering new places!” Kalos laughs. “If I drive by a place I’ve never heard of or seen, I try to go in and check it out. But hopefully, this can kind of spur that exploration.” The app is all location based, so whether you’re early for a date in Davis Square or waiting to catch a bus in East Somerville, you can pop it open when you have a little downtime and find something cool to do near you.
Above all, Kalos hopes that iLoveSomerville will get people talking to one another—communicating on the message boards, answering questions from their neighbors and growing closer as a community, whether they’re discussing upcoming events or exchanging notes on their favorite local bars.
“I would love for people to be part of it,” Kalos says. “I see this as a virtual Somerville community, and you can’t have a community if people don’t participate. If you’re from Somerville, you work in Somerville or you love Somerville, treat it as your own app.”