Courtesy City of Somerville
Touting the beginning of a new era in Somerville, local and state officials broke ground Monday at Assembly Row, the complex of stores and apartments that planners say will transform a long-disused industrial space into a bustling neighborhood.
Most generous in his praise of the project was Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who thanked the myriad of government offices and private developer for 20 years of planning. When completed in 2014, the complex will hold 2,050 units of housing, a 200-room hotel, shops, a movie theater, and a dedicated Orange Line T station.
"Assembly Square stands as a shining example of what we can all do working together," said Curtatone, who called the day "historic" for the city.
The first phase of construction will raise the 195-unit Avalon at Assembly Row building, to be followed by the 235-apartment AVA Somerville.
At a dusty press conference held at the heart of the 45-acre site, where crews already were busy surveying and drilling for the buildings' foundations, members of state government made their pitch for casting Assembly Square as the mold for development in Massachusetts.
Through a program launched in 2008, the state helped finance $25 million worth of infrastructure improvements as approved by the Board of Aldermen that included the construction of wider roads, laying of underground water and sewer pipe, and installation of new traffic signals.
"It was not whether we were going to help with this project, it was how," said Jay Gonzalez, secretary of administration and finance for Governor Deval Patrick. "This is the poster child for what we should be doing across the Commonwealth."
The former home of a Ford plant that assembled Edsel cars, the parcel is now one of largest brownfield sites in the state set to be fully redeveloped, said Philip Griffiths, state undersecretary for environment.
Also expected to go forward in the project's first phase is a planned 6-acre park that hugs the site's waterfront property line on the Mystic River that eventually will connect pedestrian and bicycle pathways to Charlestown and beyond.
Work on the Assembly Square Orange Line T station that will connect the new neighborhood to downtown Boston is expected to be complete by 2014, to coincide with the complex's opening.