SomerVision: What Is It?

It’s no question that Boston has been experiencing rapid growth over the past few years. Rising property values and consistent increases in average wages in the city are leading to the growing demand to live in transit-oriented submarkets, like Somerville.

Today, 63% of Somerville’s housing stock is comprised of small multi-family buildings with fewer than 4-units. With the imminently changing zoning laws in Somerville, the proportion of people who live in buildings with higher unit counts will go up as developers take advantage of the greater allowed density.

In 2010, in order to support the influx of eager new residents and employees, Somerville implemented SomerVision, a 20-year citywide plan focused on growing and protecting the community and its facilities. The plan has three main goals: (1) transforming opportunity areas in the Southern and Eastern edges of Somerville, (2) enhancing public spaces and squares, and (3) conserving established residential neighborhoods. To accomplish this, Somerville has defined five community goals that will be tracked throughout the project:

The new office space (over five million new square feet will be coming online in the next ten years) and the Green Line extension that will run a similar route to the old trolley are going to drive residential demand in Somerville for the foreseeable future. Population levels will rise significantly which would put immense pressure on the already over-saturated Somerville rental market. If Somerville does not allow for the requisite number of units to be built in order to meet this jump in demand, the current residents of Somerville will be priced out of the city, no matter how many affordable units developers are required to build.

Ultimately, Somerville seeks to create a community that is welcoming to a young workforce by offering strong connectivity to downtown Boston. With nearly 1/3 of Somerville residents using mass transit, the addition of 6 new stations will further fuel Somerville’s growth.

At its pre-World War II peak, Somerville has a population of over 100,000. Since the elimination of transit stops in Somerville, the population dropped and was 75,754 in 2010. In recent years after the start of SomerVision, the population has steadily increased at over 1% a year, and was estimated at 81,360 in 2017. With new initiatives focused on improving the quality of life and ease of transportation into Boston, Somerville is poised to become an integral part of life in Boston.