CFSV and the Union Square Revitalization Plan

JT Scott | 09/12/2012 | 28

The final Union Square Revitalization Plan (also known as “SomerVision”) was released in August. Among other big changes for Union Square, it details some very specific plans for our home at 35 Prospect Street, CrossFit Somerville. Click here to read or download the full plan.

The city intends to seize CrossFit Somerville by eminent domain, destroy the building, and give the property to a real estate developer so that company can build a new 5-story structure: retail like CVS on the ground floor, and 4 stories of condos or offices above it.

What about you? Well, the plan says they’ll help find us a new home somewhere… but the fact is that I searched in Somerville for 2 years to find the perfect spot for CrossFit Somerville. We are a unique operation that cannot simply fit into a strip mall vacancy. I know – I’ve done this three times already!

I think this neighborhood needs CrossFit, and all of the great things we have planned for the future of CrossFit Somerville, a lot more than it needs a CVS and more condos. I believe in the future of Union Square, and I think CrossFit Somerville can be a vibrant part of that future.

Please help me ensure that Yosh, Mandy, KP, Maralene, Nick, and I will be able to be here for many years to come, working with you to build a stronger Somerville. Right now, we need your help.

What can you do to help keep CrossFit Somerville in Union Square?

1) SHOW UP. The public meeting to discuss this is Wednesday, September 19, at 6pm. The public meeting will be held at City Hall (on Highland St) in the Alderman’s Chambers. All Somerville residents are invited.

Please be there. Your public support and presence is the most important thing you can do.

2) SPEAK UP. At the meeting, let the Aldermen know what is wrong with this plan and what needs to change. Tell them how important CFSV is to you, and how valuable it is in its current location. Your voice is the only thing that matters.

3) WRITE IN. Yes, a physical letter with a stamp and envelope. Doing this counts almost as much as showing up in person and being impassioned. Responses from people unable to attend have been requested in writing PRIOR to the meeting, addressed to:

Alderman Tony Lafuente, Chairman, Committee on Housing and Community Development
City Hall
93 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02143

(I had to ask the guy at the Post Office how to do it. I’ll provide stamps and envelopes and teach it during a warmup.)

What does the Board of Alderman need to hear? We need to ask them to change the plan to remove our property, 35 Prospect Street, from the Union Square Revitalization Plan, before approving it. We need to ask for the Plan to be Amended, not Passed. Why?

The Plan is Out of Date
1) The plot is listed under the prior ownership (Frank and Charles Souza), not my present ownership (as of 8/2011).
2) The plot is lumped into the “D-4 Prospect West” acquisition block as an “auto-related use”, even though it is no longer an auto-related use and is not contiguous with those properties.
3) The plot is targeted for demolition to make way for redevelopment – when redevelopment has already started!

The Plan Doesn’t Serve the Neighborhood Residents
1) CrossFit Somerville is more than a business – it is already serving as a community center and creating bonds in the neighborhood.
2) CrossFit Somerville is just the beginning. Killing this local small business as we get started leaves no room for continued re-landscaping, renovation, and redevelopment by our committed local ownership.
3) Even if this property won’t be seized for 5 years, the fact is that we cannot expand and thrive the way you and this neighborhood deserve if we’re under the threat of demolition.

The Plan Doesn’t Allow CrossFit Somerville to Survive
1) CrossFit Somerville is a unique, small, locally owned business serving neighborhood residents that cannot be easily relocated due to unique needs for vibration and sound isolation.
2) 35 Prospect Street is valued by the city at drastically under the current purchase and renovation price. Seizure by imminent domain would bankrupt me personally, and the business as well. No relocation would be possible.

Please show up and help keep CrossFit Somerville in Union Square. If we cannot get this Plan amended on Wednesday, the fate of CFSV will sit in the hands of a private board of four real-estate people called the Somerville Redevelopment Authority. We need your voice to stay in the neighborhood.

Yosh and I, particularly, have sunk several years of our lives – and practically my entire life savings – into building CrossFit Somerville. I believe in Union Square, and I believe we can do great things together. Please help us stay right here for years to come.

Linked here is the text of a letter I sent to the Aldermen on August 23rd. Your own words telling the Aldermen why CFSV needs to be free to stay at 35 Prospect and grow on its own will be most powerful; this letter is just an example of my perspective.

28 comments for “CFSV and the Union Square Revitalization Plan

  1. Laura says:

    I have a workshop at 6 PM that same day, but I’ll definitely be writing a letter and calling in. Do you have the contact information for snail mail/email/phone? This is saddening, but alas, fight we will!

  2. cmliu says:

    i will spread the word. this is maddening news. i will try to make it but it’s unlikely as i have to be in groton by 7pm that evening. but i will definitely write/email/call/send a transformer robot to speak our case.

  3. Shawn Ramirez says:

    I have a meeting that day at 5pm, and I’ll will do my best to make it to the city hall meeting, but I might not make it.

    Please let me know the contact info for anyone that I can call/write to about this.

  4. You know I’ll be there… One very interesting take away is that your name is actually “Jefferson T. Scott”

    A great place to catch some Aldermen off guard would be the night before at the foodie crawl

    In all seriousness I’ll ask my peeps which pathways may be most effective here and send letters/calls down those avenues.

  5. JT says:

    Thanks, everyone.
    Renee: Actually, it’s “Jefferson Thomas Scott”, but that’s a lot of name for someone who’s not the President (yet).

    Responses from people unable to attend have been requested in writing PRIOR to the meeting, addressed to:
    Alderman Tony Lafuente, Chairman, Committee on Housing and Community Development
    City Hall
    93 Highland Avenue
    Somerville, MA 02143

    Your letters will absolutely help! Editing the post above to include this information.

  6. Lara says:

    I’ll absolutely be there. (Although I might be a few minutes late. Save me a seat!)

    If anyone wants to grab a drink at Highland Kitchen afterward to celebrate our success/lament the bullshit, I’m down!

  7. bensacc says:

    I will be there. I’ll take the whole fucking day off if I have to. As a Cambridge resident I’m not sure how involved I can get, but whatever I can do, whatever, wherever, whenever, I’m your huckleberry.

    I have such a deep, visceral hatred for eminent domain I could probably hit a 50# deadlift PR right now as I’m typing this.

    oh, and one last thing…I’m totally calling you Jefferson.

  8. cmliu says:

    just in: there’s a power discussion breakfast on oct 4 at the somerville holiday inn. “The Board of Directors of Union Square Main Streets invites neighborhood business and commercial property owners to join us over breakfast to hear your feedback on the plan and the City’s vision for a new Union Square.”

  9. Kait says:

    Someone should really make sure to video tape the meetings, in fact, probably two or three people should. As this is an election year, I’m pretty sure most politicians wouldn’t want to be caught supporting an action taken against a local business in support of a big developer/huge corporation. Making it known that you intend to bring this public can do a lot to alter peoples plans. As the biggest initiative nationwide is to stimulate local economies, I would bet playing up the big mean corporate monster beating up on the little guy card would go a long way.

    Heck, you could always tell Fox News about this. There is a pick-up truck in the driveway and they love this kind of thing. Isn’t Scott Brown supposed to support pick-up trucks? God knows, Elizabeth Warren doesn’t like corporate America. I say make this hugely public.

    • JT says:

      I’m not looking to blow up anyone on this at the moment; I don’t think it is something that needs to go state- or nation-wide.

      For the first pass here, I’m proceeding in good faith on the basis that the Aldermen and the Mayor want a correct and updated plan to move forward with redeveloping the area. After all, we’ve met the Mayor. He’s a very nice guy.

      What is needed is just a lot of very vocal support to the Aldermen indicating that the plan submitted by OSPCD no longer reflects reality: 35 Prospect Street is now a center of new energy, community, and development in Union Square instead of a fading auto body business.

      If they don’t remove us from the plan entirely, it would be significantly better to be designated as a site for SRA investment in “enhancement” rather than “seizure and demolition”. Regardless of outcome, having your voices heard by the Aldermen who are considering this project is an important part of the process.

      (Many thanks to the person who already sent me a copy of his eloquent letter to the Aldermen! You know who you are.)

      It is my confidence and hope that with your voices (and letters – don’t forget to write letters to the address above)

  10. Hillary says:

    I am definitely going to write a letter and snail mail it. But thought I would also point out that this fellow does encourage direct communication, so maybe as a supplemental effort, Ward 4 residents in particular could reach out to him using other methods, too.

    We email our Ward 6 alderman, Rebekah Gewirtz, whenever we have any issue with the city, and she gets back to us the same day. It’s amazing.

    • Hillary says:

      Ha! Rebekah Gewirtz is actually on this committee too… including an Alderman at large, Dennis Sullivan. So I would think contacting any of those folks would be good to do as well, for those of us who cannot attend the meeting in person.

  11. Tim says:

    You overlooked Shape-Up Somerville. Somerville’s health and fitness initiative. Also part of Somerville’s revitalization.
    Study was done in coordination with Tufts from 2002-2005:

    However – it remains a CITYWIDE campaign:

    And was featured in USA TODAY just 3 years ago (cover pic looks like it is around the corner):

    And there is an entire web site hosted by Somerville City regarding the Shape-Up campaign:

    This site features all sorts of pleas from the city to get healthy. CFSV could actually serve as a physical hub for some of these services – supporting the city’s campaign.

    This is my contribution to the cause if I can’t make it Wednesday. My entire research effort this year hinges on interviews scheduled all next week. Which is bad timing. But I’ll try.

    Also – do you have demographic data on your enrollment? Is the climbing enrollment coming from Somerville? Data speaks louder than words in Somerville government. Perhaps we should have been counting pounds and measuring biceps!

  12. Dennis says:

    I just got goosebumps reading how passionate people are about saving their beloved CF gym. This is unbelievable. What an amazing community!

    Good luck, and if I’m able to make it, I will absolutely be there.
    If not, a letter goes out. It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of those bad boys.

    Best of luck JT and the CFSV community!

  13. Marcos says:

    Dear all, JT,

    Count on me. In fact, the Brazilian Ambassador and I will have some meetings with local authorities regarding other subjects (the Brazilian community, business, etc) and of course I will raise the topic. If it helps, let me know.


  14. olivia says:

    Any word on what involvement of cambridge residents is permitted/important/influential? (I live just across the border.)

    • JT says:

      It seems that anyone can speak and be heard at this meeting, so I say “give it a shot”! At the very least, I would be very heartened by your physical support – and it gives us an even bigger presence in the room.

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