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Lechmere Square To Undergo Change

Lechmere Square may undergo a makeover in the near future.

The East Cambridge Planning Team Lechmere Square working group is calling for the renovation of the space the Lechmere Station currently occupies.

Last fall, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposed the extension of the Green Line beyond Lechmere Station into Somerville and Medford, Mass. As a result, Lechmere Station will relocate to the east side of the Monsignor O’Brien Highway.

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The new station is projected to open at the end of 2014.

The ECPT working group said it hopes the area currently occupied by the station will be transformed into an open plaza surrounded by retail spaces.

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According to the working group’s proposal, the train shelter would be converted into a canopy for an outdoor seasonal market. On the other side, the bus depot would be renovated into an enclosed, year-round farmer’s market.

In addition, the group critiqued the openness of the entrance area of the new Lechmere station, which could potentially expose waiting passengers to adverse weather and bus traffic. The group suggested erecting a building to house the Charlie Card machines and entrance turnstiles.

The group also recommended the construction of a 12- to 14-story building in the triangular parcel of land adjacent to the proposed plaza. The building—likely to be a hotel—will serve as a “cash cow” for the Square and promote pedestrian traffic in the area, according to Barbara Broussard, president of the ECPT.

At a city council meeting earlier this year, residents of East Cambridge expressed their approval for the proposal, which they said would encourage greater foot traffic and serve to augment retail spaces.

“When has a community come to you and said, ‘Build me a 12-story hotel?’ Never.” Broussard said about the unprecedented support in the community for such significant urban planning measures.

“There has been no one that said the idea was a pie in the sky.”

The ECPT working group—which is currently looking to garner sponsorship for its proposal—has met with the Secretary of Transportation, the Cambridge City Manager, and representatives from the MBTA and MassDOT to discuss its plans, according to Broussard.

A feasibility study regarding the ECPT proposal will be conducted this summer, as commissioned by the Cambridge City Council in March. Subsequently, a preliminary report will be drafted by September, according to Susan Glazer, deputy director of the Cambridge Community Development Department.

­­—Staff writer Joanne S. Wong can be reached at joannewong@college.harvard.edu.

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