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Notes from Design Working Group meeting

Notes from the May 26 meeting provided by Ken Krause…
INTRODUCTIONS
This was the first DWG meeting conducted by the MBTA’s Mary Ainsley, who is assuming overall Project Manager responsibility from MassDOT’s Kate Ficther, and the first involving the new Project Management/Preliminary Engineering consulting team led by HDR Engineering/Gilbane Construction.


Program Manager Mike McBride of HDR and Deputy Program Manager Karen Arpino-Shaffer of Gilbane gave remarks similar to those made at the recent “Meet and Greet” events, and also introduced Michael Epp, an architect from Kleinfelder/SEA Consultants, who addressed the station design process that he is directing.
Epp has 35 years of architectural, design and planning experience. He joined Kleinfelder last November from Elkus/Manfredi Architects, where one of the projects he headed was the renovation of the Charles/MGH Red Line Station. He also worked on the South Station bus terminal project and Silver Line Courthouse Station.
OBJECTIVES/TIME FRAMES
The major focus of the project team is to advance the design it inherited from the previous consultants from the current 10% stage to about 30% by the end of the year. That will allow the MBTA to seek bids from parties interested in carrying out the “Design/Build” (final design and construction) work for the project. The MBTA hopes to award the Design/Build contract by mid-2012.
Bids from companies wishing to build and furnish the new Green Line cars are due in June.
MassDOT has filed the Final Environmental Assessment with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Office. After it is approved by NEPA, a public hearing and public comment period will follow.
STATION DESIGN PRINCIPLES
The latest set of Station Design Principles created by a DWG subcommittee were presented and discussed, with an emphasis on how they should be applied and clearly communicated to the public during the upcoming station workshops.
STATION DESIGN PROCESS
Architect Michael Epp outlined his approach to the station design process, noting that he brings the perspective of having been a citizen advisory group participant on the Orange Line extension project.
“I know what questions you want to have asked, and we will do our best to answer them,” Epp said. “We think the committee and the community are smart and have something to offer us, and we think we’re smart, too, and we have something to offer you. And that’s the way it ought to be – an open, active dialogue. We’re going to make this better as we act together.”
Epp said his team has begun its work by converting the existing station drawings from two-dimensional to three-dimensional to aid the public’s understanding of what is proposed. “The design process should be a clear process, so we want to try to present as many things in perspective or in animation as possible,” he said.
Listing some station design principles, Epp said: “The stations will look different (from each other) because they are each in different situations. They shouldn’t look like today. They should have timelessness to them, not labeled `2011.’ They should be safe. They should be modest in the best sense of that word. They should be community based and spring from their neighborhoods and not look like a space ship that got dropped into the neighborhood.”
Epp said that the station designs that come out of the Preliminary Engineering process and put into the scope of the Design/Build procurement bid package will essentially be what the communities can expect to see built.
“Our direction has been to make sure that the stations are what the community wants, so what is handed to the Design/Build team doesn’t get changed,” Epp said. “So, we’re going to try to define that very, very clearly.”
STATION DESIGN WORKSHOPS
Seven station design workshops have been scheduled for June; the workshop schedule is not yet posted to the project website, but it is available on somervillestep.org.
DWG members expressed concern that some of the workshop locations were not convenient to the proposed station sites, and that the Lechmere Station meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 30, was too close to the July Fourth holiday weekend, both of which would inhibit public participation.
Officials said they would look for better locations for some of the workshops, particularly Ball Square on June 9 and Lowell Street on June 13, both of which currently are scheduled for Somerville High School. St. Clement Parish Center in Medford was suggested as a possible site for the Ball Square workshop, and the VNA Center in Somerville for the Lowell Street workshop. Officials also said they would try to move up the date of the Lechmere Station meeting, with Wednesday, June 29, a possible option.
Outreach strategies also were discussed, including the creation of flyers for each workshop (in multiple languages), flyering neighborhoods, communicating through social networks and community access TV, and through the citizen communication tools (ResiStat, Reverse 911, etc.) that are in place in the cities of Medford, Somerville and Cambridge.
Officials also said that workshops will be conducted on the Somerville Community Path, the Maintenance/Storage Facility, and Noise Barriers.
MISCELLANEOUS
Officials announced that Jessica Kidd had been appointed as a Medford DWG representative for the College Avenue station area replacing Jessica Martin, who has moved from the city.
The next Design Work Group meeting is expected to take place in July.
Slides and handouts from Thursday’s meeting will be posted to the project website, www.greenelinextension.org.

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