Union Square Changes – March, 2011

What a winter! Five major storms – mountains of snow, schools closed, traffic a mess, parking impossible, walking hazardous, and shoveling – endless shoveling. In the hours spent wielding my Ames True Temper Avalanche Ergo snow shovel, I thought in increments. When I clear the sidewalk as far as the tree, I’ll take a break…four more shovels full and then I’ll chat with the neighbor…. when the front walk is done, I’ll stop for coffee. The snow wasn’t cleared all at once – but incrementally, one shovel full at a time. Slow, steady, and consistent progress moved mountains of snow.

Over the last several years, the City of Somerville has rolled out large, ambitious plans for Union Square. Making Webster and Prospect two way streets, flipping the plaza to the south side of the square, changing Washington Street to two ways as it passes through the Square, have been explored as options. Woonerfs and District Improvement Financing programs have been part of the discussion that will some day bring parking garages, bicycle lanes, a Green Line station to our square.

But what about now? Are there small, incremental changes that could be made now that will eventually lead to the successful future of this important part of our city? Could the timing of walk signals be changed so that crossing the square becomes less of a foot race? Could the Somerville Community Access Television Building be properly maintained so that a bit more of commercial space might be available? Would it be possible to further streamline the business permitting process so that a little bit economic development might come a little sooner?

Incremental improvements – something to think about as we watch for the first signs of spring.

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