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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Massachusetts

Davis Square
Public Space and Public Transit
Mt. Holyoke
Mountain Top Houses Spur Sprawl

Davis Square
Public Space and Public Transit

Can transit turn a town around? The redevelopment of Davis Square, a neighborhood in Somerville, makes a case that it can help. Once a thriving area of stores and businesses, this older suburb of Boston had begun to go downhill. The lack of any direct rapid-transit access from the booming Boston/Cambridge core and its position off major highway routes seemed to isolate the community. But in the early 1980s, a long-awaited extension of the region's rapid-transit system gave Davis Square new life and contributed to a dramatic turnaround.

Somerville already had a somewhat traditional and pedestrian-friendly plan -- a legacy of its original streetcar-driven development. Named for the public space at its center, Davis Square had not succumbed to any number of auto-centric solutions for revitalization and had remained a virtually intact neighborhood. Around a core of shops, stores and offices was a blend of apartments and townhouses.

In this case, what the area lacked was good public transportation. The extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's Red Line, which runs northwest from Harvard Square in Cambridge, was the perfect solution. While it took a few years for the impact of the extension to be felt, it's now quite clear that adding rail service helped put the community back on track. Today, Davis Square has not only recovered economic and social vitality, but it has become a popular destination in its own right.

Mt. Holyoke
Mountain Top Houses Spur Sprawl

Trophy houses on a high ridge are often a feature of poorly planned development in the mountain West. But a similar development that threatens to destroy key open space and push sprawl deep into fragile habitat has cropped up outside the Massachusetts town of Hadley.

The Mt. Holyoke range is one of the largest unfragmented forests in the state and is home to 30 rare species. But residents are realizing that despite the mountains' importance to people and wildlife, most of the range is privately owned. On one of these private parcels, Bercume Builders hopes to place 40 to 60 large homes. The 106-acre parcel of land extends from the Connecticut River valley almost 500 feet up to the summit of the Mount Holyoke range.

Though the project is small, this type of development is part of a larger trend that is pushing sprawl deep into untouched lands in the Pioneer Valley. In the long run, to protect this and other parts of the mountain, Hadley will need better planning and open-space protection.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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