The Powder House School site is a 2-acre (0.8 hectare), city-owned parcel located at 1060 Broadway, in the City of Somerville, MA. The City has been exploring re-use and redevelopment alternatives for the site since the school’s closure in 2003. Numerous technical studies, as well as a multi-year community visioning process have identified key assumptions, opportunities and limitations relative to the property. The City seeks the expertise and creativity of the global design and planning community to bring a shared vision for the site to life.
To move closer to a redevelopment solution that meets the needs of multiple stakeholder groups, the City of Somerville, through the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD) proposes issuance of a “Design Competition” for urban design teams. The competition is intended to solicit urban design concepts for redevelopment of the Powder House School site that are aesthetically pleasing, pedestrian-oriented, sensitive to neighborhood context, and financially attractive to the development community and to the City of Somerville. Use programs are not prescribed; however, dimensional standards and financial realism will be closely scrutinized.
2. PROJECT BACKGROUND
The Powder House School site represents a significant opportunity for creative mixed-use redevelopment programs in one of Greater Boston’s most desirable urban neighborhoods. It is located within a ten-minute walk of heavy rail rapid transit and a major university. It is large enough to support revenue-generating development while preserving open space. It offers a grade change that might facilitate structured parking or soften the interface with abutters.
However, the site also faces substantial challenges. It is just far enough away from a central business district that commercial uses may not be viewed as viable or desirable. Projected demolition costs of the vacant school building are high. Approximately 16 single- and two-family homes abut the site, leading to concerns about abutter impacts. Traffic and parking pressures in the neighborhood may undermine redevelopment proposals.
Most importantly, current zoning regulations would not permit most creative mixed-use redevelopment scenarios. As a result, community stakeholders, elected officials and planning staff have not been able to effectively visualize and evaluate alternative future scenarios.
The Powder House Community School was built in 1973, and was closed in 2003 due to declining enrollment and high operating costs. Technical studies for municipal re-use of the property were conducted in 2004 and 2005, with cost estimates for rehabilitation of roughly $13 million (US). By 2007, a technical study found that new seismic code requirements and escalating construction costs had brought the cost estimates for renovation up to $14.5 million (US). As a result, the City shifted its focus to private re-use or redevelopment scenarios. A technical study in 2009 provided updated cost estimates for both rehabilitation of the old school building, as well as for various new construction scenarios. In 2010, the City initiated a community visioning process to build consensus among neighbors, local business owners and elected officials around redevelopment scenarios.
for project documents.
The City has established the following goals for the property:
• Bring the site back into productive use
• Implement a redevelopment program that provides some combination of jobs, housing, and/or open space benefit to the residents of the neighborhood and the City of Somerville
• Leverage private investment to finance site improvements
• Achieve a public fiscal benefit (including some combination of sale/lease proceeds, real estate taxes, and/or project mitigation)
• Summer 2011: Conduct design challenge
• Fall 2011: Conclude community visioning process
• Winter 2011/2012: Issue Request for Proposals to private development teams for redevelopment of site
4. SITE DESCRIPTION AND SCOPE
A vacant school building currently occupies the site, representing 48,000 square feet of footprint and 100,000 gross square feet of interior space. The building ranges from one story to three stories. A former schoolyard of 25,000 square feet is covered by asphalt. See Appendix B, Image 1 and Image 2 for oblique aerial photos of the site.
The site is bisected by a highly-used, 6-foot (2 meter) wide pedestrian walkway between Holland Street and Broadway which is protected by a deed restriction. This deed restriction allows for the pedestrian walkway to be moved and reconfigured, but not eliminated or reduced in width. See Appendix A Image 1 for a plan of this pedestrian walkway.
Abutting the site to the south is a three-story office building and surface parking lot owned and operated by Tufts University. To the east, a row of two-family homes abut the former school building. The property’s northern boundary is formed by Broadway, a moderate/high traffic arterial roadway with bus service, bicycle lanes, and a row of two-family homes facing the school site. To the west, a single-family home sits on top of a 10-15 foot (2-3 meter) retaining wall. See Appendix A Image 1 for a map of tax parcel boundaries.
The site slopes downward from west to east, with a total grade change of approximately 15 feet (5 meters). See Image 4 for a topographic site plan.
5. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
A. Designers shall submit a conceptual design for the site, which shall address the following:
a. Use program: Use program may include any combination of open space, residential, retail, office, and educational/institutional use. Industrial uses may not be included, unless they are specifically identified as small-scale, clean, pedestrian-oriented fabrication or craft manufacturing uses that are part of a mixed-use program. Agricultural uses may not be included, unless they are small-scale, community-oriented accessory uses to a larger mixed-use program. Use programs must be primarily pedestrian-oriented, rather than vehicle-oriented.
b. Dimensional standards: Dimensional characteristics should make reasonable efforts to comply with Somerville’s “Commercial Corridor District 45” zoning requirements. Key requirements are listed in Section 6 (Design Constraints). See http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientID=14682&stateID=21&statename=Massachusetts
for the Somerville Zoning Ordinance.
c. Financial Feasibility: Submissions are expected to provide a level of return to a developer that would allow for substantial project mitigation (i.e. privately-funded public open space; affordable housing; underground parking, etc.). Based on the City’s preliminary analysis, projects will require a minimum of 24 residential units, 5,000 square feet of commercial use, or some combination thereof to adequately finance project mitigation measures. Key requirements are listed in Section 6 (Design Constraints).
B. Designs shall:
a. be solely the result of the design effort of the designer; and
b. be unique original and not infringe upon any copyright or the rights of any person
6. DESIGN CONSTRAINTS
A. Designers shall restrict their conceptual design to the property limits shown in Appendix B. The only exception is to provide for vehicular access via a new curb-cut on Broadway or a vehicular connection to Holland Street via the existing Tufts University off-site surface parking lot.
B. Designers are discouraged from proposing any building with a height greater than 45 feet (13.7 meters), unless a greater height is required to achieve a specific design objective.
C. Designers are discouraged from proposing any program with a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) greater than 2.5, unless a greater FAR is required to achieve a specific design objective.
D. Designers shall provide a rough estimate of per-square foot design and construction costs
All submitted design proposals shall be evaluated by the Mayor of the City of Somerville and his staff. Community members may be given the opportunity to provide comment on proposed designs. All designs shall be evaluated based on the criteria described below:
- Sensitivity of scale, massing, and design elements to neighborhood context – 40%
- Financial realism of projected costs and revenues of use program and design – 20%
- Quality of publicly-accessible open space and other amenities provided for in the use program and design – 20%
- Impact of use program and design on neighborhood multimodal circulation system – 20%
The selected designer shall be awarded with a fee in the amount of $1,500, second $750, third $250 (in total $2,500)
9. SITE VISIT
Local design teams are encouraged to visit the site. The site is located at 1060 Broadway, Somerville, MA.
July 5 Launch of Competition
September 5, 2011 Deadline for Design Submissions
September 24, 2011 Winner Announcement
11. SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
i. Participation in design competition should consist of the following:
A. Registration to competition at www.arcbazar.com website
B. Brief description of concept (recommended limit of 250 words)
C. (1) Siteplan, 1:400
(1) Site Section/Elevation, 1:400
(3) Perspective/Axonometric Views:
a. (1) overlaying your design onto Appendix B image2
b. (2) free perspective/axonometric views that best describe your design
ii. All submissions should be uploaded on www.arcbazar.com website. Submitted images shall not identify names of individuals, firms or organizations.
iii. Please adhere to the following specific submission requirements:
A. Files contained in Appendix A and B shall be downloaded from Arcbazar’s webpage, in order to superimpose your design directly onto the images
B. All images shall be submitted by designers as follows:
a. All perspective/axonometric views should be JPG submittal:
- 10x7.5 inches size at 150 dpi, maximum 2MB per image; and
- Siteplan and Site Section/Elevation should be on a single A2 sheet, and submitted as a PDF document, maximum 5 MB.
C. All submitted images should be labeled as follows:
12. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
A. All designs submitted pursuant to this solicitation shall remain the property of the designers, including copyright in the work
B. Designers should agree to the following:
a. Costs incurred in submitting any materials in connection with this solicitation are the sole responsibility of the designers;
b. By submitting materials, applicants shall grant express permission to the City of Somerville to use submitted materials for any purpose without limitation; and
C. The selected Designer shall:
a. Retain ownership and copyright of the design work; and
b. Not use the designs without prior approval from the City of Somerville.
D. The City of Somerville reserve, without limitation, in perpetuity, the right to:
a. Reject any and all designs received in response to this solicitation;
b. Waive or modify any irregularities in proposals received or any other aspect of this solicitation;
c. Conduct discussions with one or more designer; and
d. Negotiate separately with any source whatsoever in any manner whatsoever.
E. The City of Somerville agrees to use its best efforts to give credit and provide notice to the selected winning designer when using their design work.
Submissions must be submitted by Monday, September 5, 2011, at 12 midnight EST. All submissions should be uploaded at www.arcbazar.com.
The selected designer shall be notified by September 23, 2011. The selected conceptual design shall be posted on Arcbazar’s website (www.arcbazar.com). Only the winning Designers shall receive direct notification.
Phone inquiries shall not be returned. All questions will be answered at Arcbazar’s wall feature at the project page. E-mails regarding questions that can be answered by reviewing this solicitation shall not receive a response. The City of Somerville shall periodically post relevant questions and answers on the project wall at www.arcbazar.com.