Union Point

Boston, United States

Thursday, 9 November 2017

 
 

Union Point

Boston, United States

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Planning for the future

The masterplan for a whole new ‘smart city’ near Boston in the USA has been released

Union Point will be a culturally rich urban environment 12 miles from Boston, with direct access to the city’s transit system. The development is located at the intersecting point of the towns of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington, Massachusetts

LStar Ventures, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Sasaki Associates have created the master plan for Union Point, a unique city located on roughly 1,500 acres of land 12 miles south of Boston situated within the towns of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington, Massachusetts. Union Point is a new culturally rich urban environment unlike any other in the United States.  Rooted in 21st-century urbanism, the Union Point master plan vision combines the attributes and energy of a city – elements such as easy access to public transportation, entertainment and sports venues, art and culture, and education – with natural open spaces, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roadways, and tomorrow’s communications and smart-living technologies.  The result will be a community that combines active living with “Smart City” design to offer the advantages of urban density in a supremely livable environment. 

What is “Smart City design”? 

A Smart City is a connected city. It integrates multiple information and communication technologies to manage a city's assets, improve the efficiency of services, and meet residents' needs. Embedding this technology from the beginning allows for the sharing of information with real-time monitoring and feedback across all user groups.  Because Union Point is a new development from the ground up, it provides unparalleled opportunities for a “smart” community to learn and continue to innovate as it grows into an international exemplar of a Smart City. 

Design Details – By the Numbers

4,000 residential units  

1,000 acres of green space and 50 miles of hiking/biking trails 

Between eight and ten Eight million square feet of commercial development

Three million square feet of office and innovation space

120,000 square feet of food and beverage space

500,000 square feet of retail space

100,000 square feet of entertainment

Timeframe

Construction continues on multiple fronts Development is heating up at Union Point following the recent completion of the William Delahunt Parkway connecting the unfinished parkway through to Rte 18 at the South Weymouth MBTA station.  Currently underway is the preparation of a including ongoing residential growth with more than 300 new homes and completion this fall of the 25 acre sports field complex.  On the larger scale  and site preparation is underway on the Phase 1 downtown district surrounding the existing hangar building.  Re-imagining the historic structure as an active neighborhood anchor, will provide an important touchstone with the Naval Air Station’s past and provide a focal point for Hangar Square, a new programmable public space at the heart of downtown.  This Hangar mixed-use Downtown District which will feature residential, office, retail, restaurant and civic uses, providing a 24/7/365 dynamic hub to serve the local and south shore be an important transformative next step in serving the local communities and broadening the awareness of Union Point’s unique presence in the greater Boston area.  Re-imagining the historic hangar structure provides an important touchstone with the Naval Air Station’s past.  The building will become the focal point of the new Market Square, a dynamic public space in the Hangar District that is evolving as the downtown for Union Point.  

Accessibility

12 mile drive from downtown Boston 

10-minute walk to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Commuter Rail station from downtown Union Point

A proposed shuttle system to the nearby MBTA ‘T’ subway station

History

Union Point is being developed on the site of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station, which operated from 1942 to 1997. First established as a Navy blimp base during World War II, it was one of only two Northeastern locations of K-type airship mooring masts. After the war, the base became part of the Naval Air Reserve Training Command, hosting a variety of Navy and Marine Corps reserve aircraft squadrons and other types of reserve units. Since 2005, over 600 acres were transferred to the towns of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington for reuse. After changing hands several times, the property was acquired and consolidated by LStar Ventures in 2015. 

Community Involvement

LStar Ventures’ partner Kyle Corkum’s master vision for this project is to improve the lives of the people who will live and work there and provide much-needed economic development to the local communities, all in a beautiful, sustainably-built package. Kyle and his team have developed close relationships with local community members to give them a voice in how Union Point shapes up. And he’s not sending a team to do it – Kyle himself is there on a regular basis speaking to people one-on-one. In addition, corporate social responsibility is built into the contracts signed by incoming tenants; for instance ProDrive, a Dutch robotics company building to 300,000 square foot headquarters on the site, was asked by Union Point to donate laptops to the local school district. 

PROJECT GOALS

Envisioned as a new alternative to fractured and stressed lifestyles that take us from home to work via long commutes, Union Point will be a place where people create residences, workplaces, necessities, escapes, and human connections that sustain and inspire. 

Development will occupy about one-third of the property, leaving 1,000 acres as natural habitat.  A flexible planning framework of buildings, streets, open spaces and greenways has been created as the foundation for the sustainable and healthy evolution of a community over time. Integration of urban density and environmentally tuned open spaces will be further enhanced with areas devoted to arts and culture, community, entertainment, sports, industry, innovation and discovery. 

Transportation,  infrastructure and utilities systems are being planned as the backbone of a sustainable and evolving urban community.  This includes the consideration of pedestrian-centered, bike networks, street design and parking structures that will be adaptable to the advent of autonomous vehicles and the future of vehicular use patterns.  

Inspiring Becoming a new paradigm for a smart, and , connected cities, Union Point will supports all facets of life in one destination that inspires innovation and integrates technology, living, and social systems with long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability. 

This is one of the largest remaining parcels of this size in the highly sought after Boston area. As one of only a handful of projects of comparable scale and ambition in the country – and across the globe – and the first designed as a Smart City, Union Point’s creators describe it as the next version of Reston Town Center or as a Smart City version of Columbus, Indiana.  

Design Principles

Five principles guided the master plan:

Build community

Union Point is designed to bring people together, whether at work, in recreation, or at leisure. 

Drive innovation

As technology progresses, Union Point is designed to adapt. Examples include electric driverless shuttles, garages retrofitted to other uses, and flexible, multi-use streets.

Optimize synergies

Each element is conscious of the whole, including infrastructure, which will be treated with the same thoughtful planning and design approach as the more aesthetic elements.

Think both regionally and globally

Meticulously mindful of the health of Union Point’s immediate environment, the master plan has created a self-sustaining regional asset.

Foster stewardship

Union Point has a rich history that inspired the design of the master plan. This includes an abundance of manmade and natural resources that will be restored and enhanced.    

Overall goals included:

  • Blur the boundary between urban and nature to celebrate a vital and inspired integration of natural and built environments.
  • Integrate technology into the design as a supportive and competitive advantage for Union Point businesses and residents.
  • Inspire commitment to innovation.
  • Contribute to the triple bottom line of long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
  • Achieve inherently integrated design across all scales and including technical, living, and social systems.
  • Integrate art in the form of public sculpture, sculptural play structures, and places for artists to work and live.
  • Create a resilient, flexible community that will embrace the future.
  • Develop a robust and resilient energy system.
  • Take advantage of and encourage renewable energy.
  • Reduce dependency on the automobile by encouraging alternative transportation (shuttles, public transit, bicycle, walking, ride-share, etc.)

PROJECT CHALLENGES

Environmental contamination remaining from waste stored in three landfills was detected in 1986, and in 1993 the site was put on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. Numerous remedies and long-term monitoring of groundwater are in place. The developers of Union Point are committed to the health of the site.

Previous developers’ projects stalled for years, eroding the trust of local communities. A primary goal of the initial stages of Union Point was to build reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships with Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington.

Physical access to the site.  Late last year the final phase of the 2.75-mile Bill Delahunt Parkway was completed. This provides a critical link between surrounding corridors, including Route 3 in Rockland and Route 18. There have also been various trail connections that have been completed throughout the project, including one trail that now connects to Rockland at Union Point’s southern border.

PROJECT SOLUTIONS

In its master plan, Elkus Manfredi and Sasaki have developed a range of design specifications governing the installation of all elements, including street widths, paving, ADA access, building elements and materials, fenestration, lighting, public art, awnings, balconies, services and utilities, and parking.  Extensive ongoing monitoring, including Smart Metering, will ensure adherence to high design and environmental standards while providing opportunities to adjust individual systems for optimal performance.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) rating system is an important model for Union Point. Guidelines include:

Public transportation connections will meet a specified density of trips and coverage.

Both residential and commercial development will meet specific density, FAR, and mix requirements.

All buildings will exceed baseline standards for energy and water consumption by 5%.

A large percentage of street corridors will meet specific guidelines for street amenities and width-to-building-height ratios.

Additionally:

  • The master plan for Union Point calls for enhancement of the natural habitat.
  • At least 25% of roofs without mechanical function such as solar collection sites will be “green,” planted to provide garden spaces and to reduce storm water runoff.
  • Solar collectors and heat pumps will be part of the power system.
  • Storage batteries will save electric power for future uses.
  • Smart Sewer systems, as well as gray water, runoff, and storm water recycling will minimize stress on water and sewerage systems.
  • Streets will be designed for pedestrians and bicyclists, not just for cars.
  • Structures will be built with a focus on adaptability, for instance garages that will easily convert to other uses as we become less dependent on cars. Electric shuttle buses will help to minimize car dependence.

THE TOUR

Gateways and Villages – Upon entering Union Point, Gateways and Villages will greet with a sense of place, offering a variety of living options for singles, young families, and seniors. Connecting and enriching these villages are the 50+ miles of walking and biking trails that link residents and visitors to Union Point’s dual assets: the diverse and dynamic urban districts and the expansive natural beauty of its open spaces. 

Downtown District – At the heart of Union Point is the Downtown District. The street grid forms a new set of blocks and streets that directly connect to the completed William Delahunt Parkway. These new streets become arterials that support pedestrian, bike, and vehicular traffic. 

Market Hangar Square – The existing aircraft hangar is one of a few historic structures that can provide a touchstone to the past. Connecting this historic structure to the future is a new dynamic public space called Market Hangar Square, an energized downtown of streets, open spaces, and active ground-floor shops and restaurants. Re-imagining this building and celebrating its special heritage and physical qualities lends an authentic air to this part of the downtown. 

Market Street – A great streetscape and a pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfare, Market Street is the link connecting the Hangar Square and the Uptown waterfront districts. Market Street is also a downtown destination in its own right, serving Union Point’s business, shopping, dining, and everyday needs. 

Sports Complex – The Sports Complex north of the Hangar will create a new state-of-the-art, year-round destination for greater Boston sports enthusiasts of all ages. Complementing the new sports complex is the renovation of the adjacent Fitness Center, another of the existing structures selected to be a symbol for a sustainable and respectful connection to the Naval base’s long history. A restaurant will help make this sports park a hub of activity to serve the community.

UP Town Waterfront – Up Town features a man-made Waterfront(lake), a waterscape that functions as a transitional element between Union Point’s two extremes: a new urban scale of buildings and the existing panorama of open space. At the heart of the new Waterfront is the waterside promenade featuring lovely lake views and a collection of dining venues.

Discovery District – Union Point is founded on a spirit of innovation. The Discovery District is where the soul of Union Point can blossom as companies bring a shared enthusiasm to this dynamic environment. The growth and potential influence of this district will, over time, embody a collective spirit and expand the reach and benefits of Union Point to the three immediate communities of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington, and beyond to greater Boston and the world. 

South Park – Aligning the large expanse of southern wetlands, the South Park portion of the Discovery District benefits from direct access to a portion of Union Point’s open space habitat and trail system. Adjacent to UP Town and a short walk to downtown, this area is well situated for convenient access to and from the full range of experiences at Union Point.

North DiscoveryPark – The sub-district of North Discovery Park aligns the north side of is bounded and served by the William Delahunt Parkway and is served by Endeavor Boulevard connecting it directly to the mixed-use downtown of Union Point. to the north and south. At the heart of this district will be Discovery Park, an active and flexible open space as a local gathering place for daily use with special programming throughout the year. 

Central Park – South Discovery – Aligning the south side of William Delahunt Parkway, this district overlooks the large expanse of southern wetlands, with direct access to Union Point’s open space habitat and trail system. Adjacent to UP Town and a short walk to downtown, this area is well situated for convenient access to and from the full range of experiences at Union Point.  This district features The orienting space for Central Park is the “greenway,” a linear park system that serves as an address for the neighboring blocks a cultural amenity and a major pedestrian and biking spine . Ccombining urban circulation with a natural landscape corridor for storm water management gives this spine an important sustainable function and exemplifying as a symbol for Union Point’s commitment to the resilient development of a healthy urban community. The greenway serves as an active urban open space corridor around the downtown core, connecting multiple districts and providing a path to the natural wetland open spaces to the north and west. Central Park is equidistant to the Downtown, UP Town, and Discovery districts with its own expansive overlook of the southern wetland habitat. This pivotal section of the greenway is known as “the bend.”

Nick Myall

News editor

Image Credits

Elkus Manfredi Architects

www.elkus-manfredi.com