SOMERVILLE, MA-In the latest move in what is becoming the ongoing saga known as the development of Assembly Square here, the city is releasing a request for proposal for Yard 21, a 9.3 acre parcel of the 145-acre site. Yard 21 is a crucial part of Taurus New England’s plans to develop Assembly Square Common as it is one of the the three parcels that make up that 20-acre site. Taurus or Gravestar already own the other two parcels–the Garrity Oil site and 64 Sturdevant Street–which adjoin Yard 21. Gravestar is Taurus’s new partner in the Common’s development.

The RFP process promises to be competitive, according to Sean Fitzgerald, spokesperson for Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay. A number of developers have expressed interest in the site, including, according to’s sources, Cathartes Investments, a well-known local developer. “We know there will be a lot of competition,” Natasha Perez, community and public affairs manager for Gravestar, tells “But we’ve pulled together a pretty impressive plan.”

Gravestar is best known for redeveloping Porter Square in Cambridge, which was an EPA model for sustainable growth. “One of the reasons we joined with Taurus was so they could bring in a community-oriented developer,” notes Perez.

Fitzgerald emphasizes that despite the fact that Taurus and Gravestar have a $410-million plan for Assembly Square Common that is contingent upon them winning the bid for Yard 21, “no developer has the inside track. We judge every developer on its merits.” Says Fitzgerald, the five points the winning RFP will have are the development of a T Stop; emphasis on research and development and office space; highest design standards; smaller footprints and vertical elevation; and a substantial commitment to open space.

Meanwhile, Taurus’s development of Assembly Square Marketplace is being held up because of a local resident’s lawsuit. Taurus plans to develop a Home Depot, a hotel, structured parking and a Borders bookstore on the site, but homeowner Louana Evarts, whose property abuts the mall site, filed an appeal in Middlesex Superior Court of the planning board’s decision to grant Taurus permits to build a Home Depot. Evarts’s lawsuit states that noise, traffic, and pollution from the development would damage her quality of life and property value.

The Mystic View Task Force, a citizens group long opposed to Taurus’s plans for big-box retail stores, of which Evarts is a member, threw its moral and financial support behind Evarts. Taurus is in the process of trying to have the lawsuit thrown out of court but sources close to the case tell that the company is trying to settle with Evarts.

Taurus had an “out” clause that expired April first and which would have allowed it to back out of the development. But the company chose to extend the Memorandum of Agreement, which the city has taken as a sign of good faith. “We see it as promising that they are committed to the long term,” says Fitzgerald.

Adjacent to the Assembly Square marketplace is the 17 acre-parcel owned by the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA. The company has revised its plans for the site a number of times, the latest of which include not only designs for its store, but also for a restaurant and a Little League field. The mayor has asked for further changes to the plans and, according to Fitzgerald, the city and IKEA are still at an impasse in negotiations.” We are trying to work out the best long-term community benefits package,” says Fitzgerald. Once Taurus gets the right to build Assembly Square Marketplace, the city will receive $1.3 million in community benefits.

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