Jake Blumgart | Next City

(Source: Federal Realty)


The Boston area just got its first new T stop in 27 years. Located on the Orange Line, which runs north-south through downtown, it is located in Assembly Square, a weirdly vacant corner of Somerville that is being transformed with transit-oriented development. Densely packed and woefully underserved by rail transit — only 15 percent of its population lives in walking distance of a T station — the gentrifying city adjacent to Cambridge is due to get five more stops. The rest will come with a Green Line expansion over the course of this decade.

Assembly Square has long been the least developed corner of the city. From 1928 to 1958, it housed a 145-acre Ford plant, and a variety of other tertiary industries. After the flight of manufacturing capital, it remained free of residences and cut off from the rest of the city by elevated Route 93. For many years, the tract’s only occupant was a rather bland mall, the Assembly Square Marketplace, housed in the husk of the old Ford plant. The area’s current transformation is due to a convergence of the Boston area’s strong economy, unusually active community groups and a real estate developer’s eye for underutilized space in a high-value market.

The developer in question, Federal Realty Investment Trust, is in the midst of spending $1.5 billion building a massive mixed-use development. The completed section is entitled Assembly Row, and much of the completed residential quarters are already filled, as is most of its existing commercial space. Denizens include a multiplex, a Lego-themed amusement center, and an absurdly high concentration of sneaker shops. Read more