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Revere, East Boston don't need a giant suburban shopping mall

Matthew Robare doesn't much like the initial concept of Suffolk Downs being replaced by an Assembly Square clone, because that would mean another car-centric "cargo cult urbanism" type mall with giant garages and pedestrian-forbidding streets that would just suburbanize parts of two cities:

The North End is how Suffolk Downs should be redeveloped. No parking, high lot coverage, narrow streets. Actually urban instead of the "Ye olde towne centre" fakery of Assembly Square.

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Comments

Has he even been to assembly square?!

The North End only works because it's downtown. Anywhere else it would be like Holyoke or Lynn or any other deadish New England mill town with tenements.

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Yeah, it's pretty obvious he's been to Assembly Square. Note his photo from out the T stop.

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This is an opportunity for high density development that could be rolled out in stages beginning near the blue line stations.

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Perfect spot for housing.
7 news reported today that shopping malls are going away anyhow...
http://whdh.com/news/shopping-malls-closing-throuhout-us/

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I agree. As much as I enjoy going to MarketStreet in Lynnfield, I think this particular development should be geared toward housing. We definitely don't need another mall that will be deserted in a few years.

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Walk around Assembly Row, especially near the water, there are more Rat Traps than there are resturaunts and stores.
Do you really want an Assembly row at Suffolk downs??
If Trump had it his way he would turn Suffolk downs into a members only jacket manufacturing plant and bring back jobs !!

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Clearly you are unaware that Sterlingwear is still in East Boston churning out the finest coats the US Navy can buy!

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The North End violates current zoning codes for building a new city. That's what makes it so great. They also have a 55ft high limit all all new development. It would be filled with high rises if it didn't implement that back in the 60s
Cities are built for the Automobile first. After the car is made happy in the design then people fit into the design to work around the car.
Here is a blog that talks a lot about how to go back to building a traditional city.
http://newworldeconomics.com/transitioning-to-the-traditional-city-2-poo...

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Great blog. I think however that he claims Eastern US cities are built around the streetcar, not the car.

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East coast cities are built around streetcars and not cars. That's why cars don't work very well in tight urban layouts. I can say the same thing for many European cities that I have visited - Basel, Bern, Munich, Berlin come to mind.

One might make the contention that these cities all predate streetcars, too, but that makes them even less built around cars.

So are some west coast cities: San Francisco (cable cars) and Portland Oregon were also street car cities - most of their development taking place in and propelled by the streetcar era.

Wiki is good for compilations:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streetcars_in_North_America

Many of these cities built around streetcars have brought them back, or are working to do so, because people now want to live in these compact urban landscapes where cars don't function well.

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He should get his financing in order and buy Suffolk Downs from the current developers. Otherwise, his proposal makes as much sense as mine (I want to see a thoroughbred race track at that location, which could be workable if I can get a casino license, but I digress.)

Building akin to the North End is an idea without grounding in reality. It was built over 200 years ago, when the urban reality was different. If he wanted to pretend to be real, at least go the South End/Back Bay route. At that, he'd still be constrained by the fact that all those areas are walking distance from job centers.

And I will note that of the 3 times I've been to Assembly, I've taken the train each time. Meanwhile, my transit based trips to Suffolk Downs took place weekdays. Every weekend trip was via automobile. That's the reality of the parcel.

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His suggested density of 40,000 housing units for Assembly Row would work out to about 450,000 people per square mile, a level surpassed only by the Dharavi slum of Mumbai, India. On the plus side, this would truly put the "slum" back in "Slummerville".

(40,000 units * 2.5 people per household / .22 square miles =~ 450,000)

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The surrounding space gets averaged into that.

Where are you getting 2.5 people per household?

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Average house hold size in Boston is 2.36 people, Somerville is 2.38, and the average household size in the country is 2.58, so, I guess 2.5 is fairly an OK guess on their part. Also, the 0.22 square miles is all of Assembly Square - Assembly Row itself is only 0.07 square miles, with the 0.22 sqr mi being the entire neighborhood, so it looks like that is a fair number to use, too. But, using the more exact number of 2.38 as household size, one would get a density of 432,727.27 people per sqr mile - not that far off.

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I like Assembly more than the author does, but it IS interesting/sad that a brand spanking new development near transit has no bike lanes. Like, seriously?

It does seem that they're going to be charging for the parking more, and that a lot of the surface parking is scheduled to be turned into buildings... the've got 500 more apartments scheduled to go up soon.

But they're right: we could definitely have fit more housing in there.

Of course, Somerville overall needs a balance of business and housing, so 100% housing would be less-good.

As to "You can't build a new North End, because zoning..." -- zoning can change. Or you can get a variance. It's not impossible, just a matter of wanting it bad enough.

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The pedestrian crossing over there is terrible also. Grand Union Blvd has wide lanes to cross with no traffic lights, only stop signs. I witnessed a poor woman get hit by a car one afternoon carrying some food across Grand Union where it intersects with Foley Street. She got almost to the sidewalk when a turning vehicle hit her. They really need to put traffic signals not just stop signs.

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But, Assembly does have bike lanes! There are currently only two ways that I think one would plausibly bike more than a single short block in that development:

One is "Grand Union Boulevard" which is the street that connects to Broadway/Mystic and runs behind Home Depot, "in front of" the new mutiuse buildings, and connects to the Fellsway (28). This road has bike lanes in both directions for the entire length.

The other is Revolution Drive and/or Great River Road. This connects Grand Union to the paths along the river. It goes right past the T stop and the new Partners Healthcare building, and goes "in back of" the new multiuse buildings. I believe Revolution Drive has bike lanes (I couldn't swear to it, as I've yet to bike on it, but Google maps thinks so), and Great River Road has a multiuse path directly next to it.

The other streets are quite short and have low-speed traffic. It's true they don't have bike lanes, but I don't think that's a real problem for these streets.

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One runs along the Mystic River, with a fairly new underpass connecting it to Shore Drive in the Ten Hills neighborhood across Route 28. The other runs alongside the Orange Line tracks from the new Partners building to the Orange Line station.

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No more shopping malls. Malls die a terrible death. And it's just another magnet for gang riffs. Malls are ugly and make people fat and spend money they don't on shitthey don't need and eat food they shouldn't eating.

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Even if the bulk of these developments is housing, there will need to be some commercial property in the mix.

Some of that might be like the Partners HQ in Assembly Square - hundreds of jobs, right on the T. What these large scale residential areas will need, however, is a grocery store and a pharmacy-type store and some spaces for small businesses to take over.

A huge buildout of houses is not an urban neighborhood without some businesses that cater to and support those residences without the need to drive somewhere.

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What these large scale residential areas will need, however, is a grocery store and a pharmacy-type store and some spaces for small businesses to take over.

Well the nice thing about Suffolk Downs is that there's a Target and a Stop & Shop (along with a Wendy's, Dollar Tree, and a few small stores) on Furlong Drive, which is right across the street from Suffolk Downs.

Even at Assembly there's Kmart (which does sell food), and you can kinda walk to the Somerville Stop & Shop on the other side of 93. Yes there is a walkway under 93 that isn't associated with 28. Its not a pretty one but a walkway none less with a few of the "omg you better run across the road before the light changes" crossings.

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where either Sports Authority or AC Moore used to be (I don't remember which right now).

Given the financial state of Sears Holdings these days, I'd be surprised to still see that Kmart open two years from now.

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It will soon be possible to bike to the new Wegman's at Meadow Glenn from Assembly without getting off of a pathway until the very end of the ride. Cross Rt. 16 at grade with the lights, or loop under the roadway after the bridge and take a couple of smaller crossings to get there. Two miles each way is very manageable.

I prefer to ride the roadway on Shore Drive, but you don't have to.

Walking is 1.5 miles - doable, but via a different route. I wouldn't bike those paths - crowded, even more poorly maintained.

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