Assembly Square: ToD or greenwash

Assembly Square might be the poster-child for transit oriented development in the Boston region, but there are signs to could be turning into another Wellington.

Wellington, the next station outbound on the Orange Line from Assembly Square, is near the Station Landing development, a cluster of mixed-use buildings. From the train it appears to be quite transit-oriented, with a bridge over the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority railyard and apparently lots of apartments and shops and little restaurants and cafes.

This impression vanishes as soon as one walks that bridge. It deposits pedestrians in a dimly lit parking garage, most of the land area is taken up by parking and what isn’t used for parking is used for roadway, plus getting to grocery stores involves crossing some gigantic stroads and equally gigantic parking lots on the other side.

Assembly Square is supposed to be different. It’s why Assembly Square Station was built. So that the people living and working there could take the T instead of driving. SomervilleMayor Joe Curtatone has received several accolades for his allegedly different approach, including a big one from the Congress for the New Urbanism New England chapter.

But lately, it has appeared that Assembly Square is mostly parking. Not only have the development built so far included a giant stroad called Grand Union Boulevard, but three parking garages have been built, with a fourth on the way. There are at least 13 surface lots in the area bound by the train tracks, the river, the Fellsway and I-95, as well. It looks to be about half the land area within those bounds. It’s an absurd amount of parking for this project,.in this city and this mayor.

What was the point of building a brand new station if all of this parking was gointg to be built as well?

To make matters far worse, the state considers this giant parking lot to be “Smart Growth” and traditional neighborhood development. Traditional neighborhoods have no parking. This is almost a Chinese eco-city level of greenwashing.

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