Disclosure: I’ve worked with the Somerville Arts Council to present festivals in the city.
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Construction of ArtFarm—the city of Somerville’s planned cultural and agricultural center—could begin next spring.
The Somerville Arts Council, which is leading the project, aims to get City Council and Finance Committee approval this winter for bond funding to build at the location of a former waste transfer station on Poplar Street. The 2.2-acre site is near the Brickbottom Artist’s Cooperative, just east of McGrath Highway and Union Square.
“The idea is to put it out to bid in January or February and hopefully start construction in the spring,” Arts Council Executive Director Greg Jenkins says.
Already, Jenkins says, Green City Growers has been growing garden starts in the greenhouse that was built in 2016. Groundwork Somerville has been using the existing raised beds on McGrath side of greenhouse for their World Farmers Program. And Shape Up Somerville has been using a refrigerator at the site to extend the life of food they provide to low-income neighborhoods, Jenkins says.
The main entrance to ArtFarm would be on Linwood Street, according to designs from a team led by Boston architecture and design firm OverUnder. (Review an October 2019 presentation here.) The major building on the site would be the ArtBarn, offering community meeting space and performance space, on the Poplar Street side of the site. It would offer large barn doors opening onto a plaza and “Festival Grove,” so that the structure could be the locus for performance indoors or out.
Jenkins says the Somerville Arts Council aims to lease the space in the ArtBarn to performance troupes and other cultural groups “for very little” so that it becomes a busy community rehearsal and performance space.
A utility shed for Somerville Arts Council would include three bays for garden folks and housing for the refrigerator. At the northwest end of the site would sit the greenhouse, rain garden and a “Tree Lab” where they would be “putting in trees to look at climate change,” Jenkins says.
Proposals for ArtFarm have been discussed for some six years, but the project stalled around 2016 and ’17 as it grew unclear how much Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone still supported the project. Then Curtatone affirmed in an October 2017 letter, on the eve of that fall’s election, that “The long-term home of the ArtFarm will be the former waste transfer site and … the only other structure that will share the more than 2-acre site will be the pump station, which will occupy one corner.”
The pump station and storm water management infrastructure are expected to be built on the McGrath Highway side of the site in a second phase of construction.
Oct 31, 2017: ‘We Have A Home For ArtFarm And We Have It In Writing’
July 21, 2017: ArtFarm Proponents Tell Somerville Mayor They Fear Project May Have Been A ‘Bait And Switch’
June 24, 2016: Construction of Somerville’s ArtFarm begins with greenhouse
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