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The Green Line is coming, do you buy it?

Posted by Rona Fischman  October 23, 2008 04:04 PM

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I have been hearing about the Green Line extension into Somerville for fifteen or so years. I have been hearing listing agents “sell” it as a feature of a property for two or three years. Since this summer, I hear it being “sold” as a done deal. Brokers are saying “The Green Line stop is going to be three blocks away.” “The new Green Line will make this an easy commute.” “See that building there? It is going to be torn down to make a new Green line stop.”

The Green Line is coming, but so is Christmas. Christmas will be here first. The Green Line is coming, expected in a neighborhood near you in 2014. Six years. A lot can happen in six years. Do you believe in the Green Line? Do you believe in Santa Claus?

The Green Line project is moving along. They have a great report on the station sites. Somerville is still fighting against an storage and maintenance facility in East Somerville (11.5 acres of land.) The Green Line extension will use about 32 new trains, whereas the facility will accommodate 80 trains. Hum... Somerville’s mayor is proposing an underground facility so the city can build above it. So, there’s still a lot to be said and done before 2014.

Then there is Question One. What could that do to Green Line funding? Six years is a long time. Look what the passing of Question One will do to Somerville or your town.

I am uncomfortable telling my buyers to anticipate positive changes brought on by the Green Line extension. There are too many variables in the way. However, listening to the rhetoric of my peers, I seem in the minority.

Urban buyers, are you hearing what I’m hearing? Do you buy it?

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17 comments so far...
  1. Wholeheartedly agree.

    I'd love for the green line to get to somerville.

    I'll believe it when I see it. Certainly wouldn't invest any money based on it, even before this environment. Now? A joke.

    This state is broke, we just haven't realized it yet. Won't be new projects funded for a long time, we've already promised the money to the municipal unions...

    Posted by charles October 24, 08 12:12 AM
  1. When we bought in 2004, we were looking in Union Square at first, and we were told about this project and how much more convenient our lives would be in a couple of years when the extension was completed. Thank God we ended up in Porter instead!

    Posted by Chaiya October 24, 08 08:52 AM
  1. First of all, I think that the Green Line extension project would fare much better if the project can be privatized. The MBTA is solely incapable and corrupted. Look at the big dig you would find it.
    Some cold hard facts about government efficiency:
    China spend 3 billion dollar to build a 1000 miles railroad in Tibet.
    Boston spend 15 billion dollar to build a 7 mile tunnel in downtown.
    Assuming that everything in US is 100 times more expensive in China (labor, raw material, equipment, ridiculous anyway), that still means the corrupted Chinese government is 8 more efficient than MBTA.

    Posted by Gang Zhao October 24, 08 10:16 AM
  1. I have skin in this game. The apartment I rent is in the Union Square area, which according to the current plans will get a long-awaited Green Line stop.

    I used to get excited about this, and absolutely tingle with hopeful visions of Union Square undergoing a Davis Squarification, property value increases included. I've followed the torturous and endless planning process from a distance. I've heard promises of various leaders, and also the deep skepticism of long-time, connected Somervillians who believe it will never happen. Until recently I leaned toward believing it would happen, although not necessarily in the promised time-frame, as nothing government-led in this state ever gets done on time and on budget.

    That was before economic armegeddon. I'm not experienced in the workings of state and local government, so much like President Bush I'm left with my gut. If they had broken ground by now I would be more hopeful, but without exposed dirt and pipes to keep them at it, my feeling is that the state can now cry poor for years and reneg on their obligations -- and my understanding is that they are legally obligated to do this.

    And that date: 2014. Even if they stick to it, it's a million years away. Anything can and will happen between now and then with state government, local government, and the economy. I'm not putting much hope in it as a selling point, but my realtor might choose to. I imagine it this way: "Look [prospective buyers], if you're planning on living here for ten years you will enjoy the benefits of the Green Line, and you'll be buying now at a relative bargain. A Green Line stop is guaranteed to increase property values. You're getting great value for a place on the cusp of good things." If it helps him sell, terrific.

    I will say though, even without a Green Line stop Union Square is gentrifying. Nicer and more interesting businesses have opened. There's a VERY politically active artist community, and they're always doing things to improve the neighborhood. The schools still aren't great, but there are fantastic, clean little kid parks all over the place. Great farmers market on the weekends. It really is up and coming....or was. My fear, everyone's fear of course, is that that will all come to a screaming halt in this recession and Somerville will recede back into Slumerville. Sigh.

    If I'm still a landlord in 2014 I'd be shocked. But these are strange days.

    Posted by accidental landlord October 24, 08 11:31 AM
  1. Buy it. I've been in the Davis Sq area since before the Red Line came out here. Those who bought back then have made a 30x return. The Green Line doesn't have the same cache but those who buy now will make out very well.

    Posted by Somerville Bob October 24, 08 12:42 PM
  1. Question One won't really affect the Green Line Extension, and it's naive to think that it will.

    You should realize that this project will receive a hefty amount of federal funding.

    The first major hurdle to permit this project has been completed, which is the filing of an Expanded ENF with MEPA. That details all of the major impacts of the project, plus should include some preliminary design plans.

    Next up is the EIR process. It will be in this process that the design will be further developed and this project will have a clear path to being built.

    Question One has absolutely NOTHING to do with this project.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants October 24, 08 12:59 PM
  1. Its coming is more certain than ever. If I wuz a rich man, I'd buy up condos all along it...great investment.

    Instead, we'll hang onto the one unit we have in that area, and make some money on it.

    Posted by Steve October 24, 08 01:08 PM
  1. Kind of sad, to hear people talking their book these days, vainly hoping that smoke and mirrors about "sure bets" and "30x" returns are still enough to hoodwink people into propping up their investments. I mean, really.

    Union Square has been "up and coming" in realtorspeak since the '80s. In reality, it's been down and staying. Many "hip" places have opened and closed in the past decade, with no real progress. But hey, if you can find one more Greater Fool by pushing the same old pipe dream, go ahead.

    Posted by Marcus October 24, 08 09:44 PM
  1. There's too much demand for the T to lose confidence now. Economic downturn will only make it more necessary; the pols will be pressured to act. The current commute from Union Sq. to the T is not so bad, but newcomers want it all. The "public limousine" isn't good enough. Give me back Slummerville, the dirty little secret, anyday.

    Posted by hoodsie October 25, 08 10:38 AM
  1. To continue this conversation a bit, I was in Union Square tonight talking to a guy I know whose family owns a small business there. With this post in mind I asked him if he thought the Green Line would actually happen. He said his father had been there 32 years and they've been talking about a Green Line for 32 years. So I asked again: did he think it would really happen this time? He said yes, it was inevitable at this point, but not by 2014. Because of the economy it would take longer.

    As a business owner I thought he'd be thrilled at the idea of it, of the influx of more money, but he surprised me. He said he was doing fine with things as they were, money-wise, but there were other concerns. He grew up in the neighborhood, and he wouldn't welcome all of the changes that he thought would come. He said for all the new money in Davis Square, at night there was more crime. I don't know if he's right about that, but I can see his point that with the goods would come bads, some of them tough to predict.

    Marcus, I have to wonder how often you're down there. There have been changes, and they're actively working on rezoning for more. Now maybe those plans will be slowed by the recession. Maybe you'd have to wait ten years for it to effect property values. But it does appear to be happening, slowly but surely. You're a knowledgeable guy and I respect your opinions, but I have to ask: what do you do with yourself during good times? Sit and wait impatiently for the bad times to return? It's a tough way to go through life man.

    Posted by accidental landlord October 25, 08 10:19 PM
  1. I remember Eat, Toast, Elephant Walk, New Asia, Union Cafe and half a dozen other places that have come, gone and failed in Union Square. It just never seems to catch on.

    People need to be realistic. Massachusetts doesn't have one thin dime to spend on extending the Green Line. To the contrary, you should expect police, education and other essential services to be drastically cut while property taxes go up. The only hope is a massive infrastructure stimulus plan from Washington, which, if properly run, will first fund projects already in the works to get the federal money flowing faster. Otherwise, forget about it.

    Posted by Marcus October 26, 08 03:44 PM
  1. Not to speak for Marcus, who is more than capable of speaking for himelf, but I'm guessing he was mainly responding to the sparkley-blue-pony bit above, where people were basically predicting the real estate bubble will happen again, only in Union Square.

    I do think Union square has changed noticeably in the last 10 years (my brother lived there in mid 90s). And I think it will continue to change/gentrify, though at a much slower pace in the near term as it won't get propped up as much by yuppies getting pushed out of more central areas.

    But to count on the green line based on federal or state money is crazy. News flash - the Feds are even more broke than the state, which is broke. Yes they agreed to run the green line. Yes they should run the green line. But its not going to happen anytime soon, as the money simply isn't there to pay for it.

    Barring depression level public works projects that its...

    Posted by charles October 27, 08 10:42 AM
  1. In the mid-50s my parents were moving back to MA from CA, and they were looking in Framingham where they were told that downtown traffic problems caused by the trains would be soon a thing of the past when the 126/135/rail intersection was redone and the tracks were depressed.

    More than 50 years later that's still being discussed, and traffic is still jammed when trains pass through.

    Maybe the Green Line Extension will happen, but I would only tell buyers that it's a possibility, not a certainty.

    Posted by Taylor October 27, 08 11:40 AM
  1. Marcus, I apologize, that was harsher than I should've been. the spirit of the competition, I'll counter your Eat, Toast, Elephant walk, New Asia, and Union Cafe with Sherman, Bloc 11 Cafe, Hub Comics, and Bull McIntyre's! New Asia is still there I believe, and Toast is now another club with Gay Nights, which is brilliant. When a Somerville club can sustain Gay Night you know the area is in for big things. (btw, I loved Eat. Loved it. It sucked badly when it closed.)

    charles, now where have I heard that idea of depression level public works projects before.....oh yes! From our next President, Barack "Economic Boom Boom" Obama! See, my prospects are looking up already! ;-)

    Posted by accidental landlord October 27, 08 02:57 PM
  1. Until there is funding in place, I wouldn't hold my breathe. Whenever I hear about the Green Line expansion, I am reminded of the mythical Second Avenue Subway in NYC, which was first proposed in the 1920s, but has yet to secure complete funding. Will the Green Line eventually come to Somerville? Sure, probably. But I wouldn't buy a place simply on that speculation, because a lot can happen to change things.

    Posted by Skeptical October 28, 08 12:24 PM
  1. I'm in the minority here, but I do not believe the green line will come.
    It is one of 2 of the 7 required projects where, in the fine print, it says that an equivilant project can be substituted. It is a wildly expensive proposition for a pretty short run.

    Anyway, do we really need better transport to Lechmere? To me this doesn't make sense. A commuter rail stop on the Lowell Line, a trolley or silver line style bus to harvard square, and an orange line stop at assembly, would be much cheaper and more useful, in my opinion.

    Posted by kalimba November 3, 08 12:05 AM
  1. I think the funding is in place. The governor signed the earlier in the year or late last year. They're hoping they'll get some federall too, but the coverage of his signing inidcated if not the state would take care of it.

    Posted by November 4, 08 05:24 PM
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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