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City of Somerville unveils preliminary plans for innovative Stantec-designed approach to stormwater management

City of Somerville unveils preliminary plans for innovative Stantec-designed approach to stormwater management

The Poplar Street Pump Station Project will allow the city to mitigate flooding exacerbated by climate change and improve the public realm with a park and community gardens


The City of Somerville, located north of Boston, has unveiled preliminary plans for the Poplar Street Pump Station Project, an innovative approach to stormwater management that relieves historical flooding exacerbated by climate change and modernizes operation and maintenance of the city’s new stormwater system. The city selected leading global design firm Stantec to engineer the project, which will discharge stormwater from its combined sewer system to a neighboring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) drainage system built under the Green Line Extension light-rail project. This fundamental shift in stormwater management presents a unique opportunity for the city to mitigate flooding while improving the public realm with a new public park and destination for urban agriculture and the visual/performing arts.

“The importance of the Poplar Street Pump Station to the City of Somerville cannot be understated,” said Rich Raiche, Somerville’s Director of Infrastructure and Asset Management. “Since the Miller’s River was filled and developed in the late 1800’s, portions of Somerville have been plagued by flooding, which has been exacerbated in recent years by climate change. This new station and the connection to the MBTA drainage provides a new way to handle stormwater in these low-lying, land-locked areas.”

“Moreover, this removes stormwater from the regional combined sewer system, thereby providing the infiltration/inflow offsets required to support development in the transformative areas of Union Square. That development then generates tax revenue that will help to service the debt on the infrastructure,” Raiche added. “This is the culmination of years of planning with regional authorities, development partners, and local decision makers, all of which has been supported by the Stantec technical team.”

Stantec’s Water team is providing engineering services for the planning and design of the facility, with building architecture by William Rawn Associates. The project features a stormwater pump station with capacity for 50 million gallons per day to address typical storm events and an underground storage tank with capacity for up to four million gallons to capture flooding in larger storms. The design also maintains a strategic connection to existing combined sewers to enhance resiliency and water quality.

The project is located on a 2.1-acre parcel planned as the City’s new ArtFarm, which integrates the pump station into a complementary landscape. Stantec’s Community Development team is providing the design of park features—including an urban forest, an amphitheater, rain gardens, green roofs, and spaces for public art—that are interwoven with public education of stormwater management. The team is also supporting the city’s public outreach process and overall site design with the addition of community gardens to the ArtFarm community center under design by others. Next to the parcel, Stantec is designing streetscape improvements, including a new shared street, ADA-compliant sidewalks, traffic calming features, bicycle lanes, and green stormwater infrastructure.

“The Poplar Street Pump Station site will serve as a new and welcoming gateway in Somerville’s evolving urban fabric,” said Bob Corning, Senior Principal and Project Manager at Stantec. “We are excited to bring our Water and Community Development teams together to design a space that not only merges beauty, function, and sustainability, but provides a cohesive and integrated experience for neighborhood residents and nearby communities.”

A growing partnership with the City of Somerville

“This project will help the City of Somerville address current flooding problems and prepare for future challenges through a more resilient and efficient stormwater system,” said Emerson Olander, Senior Associate and Engineering Lead at Stantec. “Given our long history in Massachusetts with complex urban design and construction projects, our team uniquely understands how to deliver critical mixed-use infrastructure in a market primed for growth. Diverse stormwater, transportation, open space, and cultural needs do not need to compete with one another—at Stantec they are complementary.”

Stantec’s client relationships within the city are long and varied. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city partnered with Stantec and Northeastern University for a wastewater testing program focused on early detection and intervention. In 2019, the city engaged Stantec to perform a municipal vulnerability study to examine the benefits of green infrastructure. In Union Square, Stantec created a plan for a community-first, mixed-use, transit-oriented redevelopment.

Final design for the Poplar Street Pump Station Project will begin this summer.