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SCC protests Union Square condos (photos) | Post Somerville

SCC protests Union Square condos (photos)

by Tom Nash on April 9, 2011

Protesters marched in front of the aldermanic chambers following a rally in front of City Hall.

Around 30 people rallied against a proposal to tear down a building to make way for new condominiums last Thursday, calling the project a move toward gentrifying Union Square.

The proposed development, which includes 30 condos and four retail units on top of 378-390 Somerville Avenue, near Union Square, will involve tearing down two residences and remodeling a larger buidling that houses both residents and two businesses.

I moved into this place thinking I’d probably stay here for ever,” said resident David Jenkins, who moved into the building after being forced out of his home in Beacon Hill to make way for condos.

It’s got to stop somewhere,” Jenkins added. “Enough with the condo conversions.”

The rally had originally been scheduled by the Somerville Community Corporation to take place just before the plans were to be discussed by the Planning Board, but the applicant received a continuance until the board’s May 5 meeting.

Jahangir Kabir, is a co-owner of Wellfoods market, which occupies one of two storefronts on the first level of the building set to be torn down. Kabir has been at the location for six years, and originally decided to set up shop there after being told the Green Line would be coming.

(The owner) is not thinking about us, the local businesses, or the residents,” Kabir said.

Protesters held signs depicting a block of Somerville Avenue with corporate chain stores and restaurants digitally placed over those of the current businesses. Other signs carried messages such as “Stop Gentrification” and “Not Another Davis Square.”

Following the rally, the protesters filed into City Hall, marching in front of the mayor’s office and aldermanic chambers, where the Planning Board meeting was taking place.

Rich Di Girolamo, attorney for building owner William James Herbert, said the protesters were ignoring the fact that Herbert could have priced the residents out sooner.

“Jim Herbert has for decades subsidized the building,” Di Girolamo said. “I think it’s kind of unfortunate that a man who has subsidized that site for as long as he has — and kept people in housing far below market value — gets treated that way because he makes a decision to redevelop the site.”

Plans for the development are not yet on the city’s website, but a Design Review Committee report said it is in favor of the project, and is the first to take advantage of the zoning changes in Union Square that allow buildings to be up to 55 feet tall.

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