Scout Out: Somerville By Design

Screen shot 2013-08-01 at 1.33.48 PMThe second Somerville by Design visioning session for Davis Square was held on Tuesday, July 30th at the First Church of Somerville on 89 College Avenue at 6:30 p.m. The event, like all others in the series, was free and open to the public. Local residents have been encouraged to attend meetings focusing on either Davis Square or East Somerville in an effort to gather a variety of opinions regarding each area’s future.

A comprehensive plan called SomerVision, which deals with the development of areas expected to be directly affected by the proposed Green Line Extension, was introduced by city officials in April of last year. The input gained from these public forums has contributed to the implementation of SomerVision’s initiative. Its funding comes from a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program. Somerville by Design began in May with crowdsourcing meetings and community-oriented surveys asking respondents to give feedback on important topics such as transport, shopping, home improvements, development, public space and public finance. The results are now being used to structure the visioning sessions that have been taking place throughout the month.

During Tuesday’s Davis Square session, residents sat at communal tables and engage in various of activities and group discussions. When asked to physically map out their ideas using markers and a whiteboard, most participants were concerned with traffic flow and aesthetic refurbishments. Some of these suggestions included pedestrian crossing facilitation, bicycle lane adjustment, parking space additions and giving the T station a makeover. Another activity involved looking at photographs to compare architectural styles and find out what the majority of people do and don’t like. The results of this exercise revealed a preference for buildings with landscaping and green space.

What is Somerville missing? This question has been at the forefront of visioning sessions as well as Somerville by Design’s social media presence. So far, the responses have been varied and range from extended business hours, retail space for things like men’s fashion or groceries and more family-friendly or kid-oriented options such as book/toy stores and creative spaces such as an art center. It seems as though the focus group format is working in terms of residential responsiveness, so we’re looking forward to seeing whether or not these potential improvements will become realities when it comes time for the city to take action.-Ali Antonucci