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February 20, 2007


it *is* funny

I like Rebekah and clearly she's doing a lot for her constituents in her first year on the job. What doesn't jive for me is how she is against the mall-ifying of Davis Square (doesn't want it to turn into a generic quare like Harvard) but supports the CVS/Boston Athletic club at One Davis. I'm really sad that the landmark building in Davis is going to be so very Gap. I wonder how she squares that circle?

Ron Newman

The One Davis Square building was fully approved while Jack was still the alderman for ward 6. Not much Rebekah could do about it even if she wanted to.

it *is* funny

Tenants were signed by then too?

Ron Newman

Yes, I recall listening to a discussion of this project at the Davis Square Task Force when Jack was still chairing it. The developer mentioned CVS and Boston Sports Club at the time. By the time Rebekah took office, this project was a fait accompli.

it *is* funny

Thanks for the info. I wont hold it against her!

Ron Newman

There was a fair amount of discussion of "couldn't we get something more useful than CVS?", but the developer didn't seem very responsive. Several of us suggested Trader Joe's as an alternative. The developer said he had previously contacted TJ's but that they didn't want to open a store without parking (even though they already have such a store in the Back Bay).

I also recall that the original plan was for a four-story building that would have exceeded Davis Square's height limit, and that the developer reduced it to three after hearing input from Jack and others at the Davis Square Task Force meetings.


As I remember reading about this, the final design approved by the City and approved by Connolly stipulated that as long as the height did not exceed the height of the Somerville Theater building, it was a go.

Is that right Ron?

Ron Newman

That may be true, but I don't recall that particular provision. I think whatever they are now building conforms to the height limit for its zone, while their original proposal exceeded it.

Butter Cup

Hey Ron,
Why don't you buy a building and put whoever the hell you want in there? Trader Joe's, Victoria's Secret, Capital Grille, Chucky Cheese....anything you want. But until then, mind your own business. When you start paying the bills we will listen.

Ron Newman

Here's a picture of the future One Davis Square. Three stories, but the second and third stories look very tall.

The zoning ordinance says the height limit in a Central Business District is four stories or 50 feet.


Ron, thanks for the picture. Juxaposed next to the Somerville Theater building really says a lot about todays architects.



Hey, at least it wasn't me. Personally, I would have tried to save the original facade - while blowing out those hideous brick infill arches from the 70s, then building up. What've got could be far, far worse though - it's not that bad.

What is worse is the introduction of another pharmacy into the mix; I can't imagine both surviving. Mr. Mayor can stick his hotel where Brooks Pharmacy is now.

Ron, seems like Trader Joe's would have been a good fit, too, with the boatload of foot traffic passing through the square everyday. Maybe the alleged greengrocers down the block would have put up a stink (sorry), or strangely enough, TJ moving in would probably affected Sessa's more so, with cut-rate prosciutto and balsamic. And Sessa's is the kind of business Davis Square can ill do without.

Parking? Couldn't someone have walked the TJ guy down to McKinnon's? I swear I can't tell if I'm in Southie some afternoons, what with all the double-parking out there, please people.


Thanks, Newman, for the link to the picture of the new building. This will be a horrible addition to Davis Square, and I fear it's the beginning of the end if we're not careful. Besides the height and overall mass of the building, aesthetically it simply doesn't fit with the old-time architecture of the rest of the Square. It looks hopelessly out of place and out of size.

Some Ole Villen

For those who think that One Davis Square is such a bad project, what do you want there? It may not be perfect but it is vibrant and active looking and much better than the lifeless brick walls that were staring at the middle of the Square for the past three decades. I think Davis can handle Brooks and CVS. Medford Sq has two CVS's.

Ron Newman

I have no problem with the size, scale, or architecture of this building. I just think a CVS adds nothing of value to the square, and they know nothing about how to use glass windows to make attractive displays. With a better first-floor tenant, I'd more enthusiastically support this project.


CVS adds a little value to the square as a hubbub of activity, people moving in an out with regularity during the day (beating the old 9-to-5 hours of the old offices, which created a dead zone there for the rest of the day); however Ron is spot-on with his observation on CVS' window displays, which appear to be non-existent at Porter and Magoun Squares. They apparently could care less about what kind of statement they are making to passersby by presenting blank white drywall (why pay for all that storefront, then?), not allowing views into the store, etc.

Speaking of first-floor tenants: Diva Lounge. Could we call out a) the owners and b) the "architects" who foisted that facade off on the rest of us? For me (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) it says "the hell with you, we don't like you, you're not even allowed to know what goes on in here." Nice gesture. Someone needs to be taken to task here.

Also, in Ron's rendering of the new building the windows on the second floor appear to be plastered with some sort of applied images - is this going to be similar to whatever the MBTA has been plastering their buses with in recent years? No thanks.


I think that CVS in Magoun Saquare has done a relatively nice job with their windows along Medford Street. They are filled with giant enlargements of pictures of Old Somerville. I have to give them credit for that, it's a lot better than sale posters!
As to the facade at Diva, 'try' talking to the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals, or perhaps elected officials. People are allowed to build whatever they want, aesthetics is not a concern. Just look at the new building on the corner of a side street and Somerville Ave. They have placed a massive garage facing Somerville Ave.! What a horrible picture for a main thoroughfare (not that anything around it is very attractive, but it is scheduled for an upgrade).

How about this?

How about if they keep CVS open until midnight or later and sell bread and milk and stuff like the Porter Square one does, close up Store 24, and then use the site of Store 24 for the proposed hotel? I bet a sharpie architect (like the Trickster) could design a real nice building to go where the Store 24 is that would be about the same height and have a similar facade of brick and mouldings made of concrete and properly sized windows to fit wih the rest of the buildings along the plaza where the statues are. That way the hotels lobby could open right onto College Ave. and across from the T and be a centerpiece of the Square. Store 24 is a waste of space and has been there beyond its usefullness I think. It isn't even really a Store "24" any longer.

Ron Newman

Store 24 closes at midnight not because they want to, but because the city requires them to. Also, Store 24 is not the only occupant of its building. If you tore it down you'd also be displacing JP Licks, Antonia's, a beauty shop, and a number of residents.

The story I've always heard is that people parking in their lot after midnight were making too much noise, disturbing the people who live in apartments directly above the store. These residents asked the city to require a midnight closing. A better idea would have been to leave the store open but close the parking lot after midnight.

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