Sunday, April 21, 2024


The first floor of Davis Square's former Social Security offices, empty since August 2010.

The first floor of Davis Square’s former Social Security offices, empty since August 2010, could be filled by an upscale grocer. (Photo: Marc Levy)

An upscale grocery store could finally fill the former Social Security office in Somerville’s Davis Square.

The Wellesley-based Roche Bros. Supermarket chain is interested in bringing its Brothers Marketplace to the first-floor space at 240 Elm St., empty since August 2010, and will be coming for a community meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 10, alderman at large John M. “Jack” Connolly said Monday on his Facebook page. In discussion on the square’s Live Journal and on the Somerville Patch and Universal Hub, some commenters showed enthusiasm and others expressed concern about deliveries and parking.

The building’s second floor and part of its first are set to become a Crunch Fitness Gym, as confirmed in September by Charles River Realty Group of West Roxbury.

Simultaneous plans for a Somerville Beer Works restaurant and brewery for the first floor were withdrawn in November after the owners ran into “resistance” from residents and a “difficult” permitting process, according to the Patch.

The Brothers concept, competition

Brothers Marketplaces are in Weston and Medfield, both open this year, while the Roche Brothers parent chain has 18 stores dating back to 1952. The company describes the Brothers Marketplace concept as “a next-generation neighborhood market.”

Brothers Marketplace focuses heavily on fresh foods and regional artisan products while also offering all the favorites needed for a full grocery shopping experience … Brothers Marketplace brings an innovative approach to food, with a nod to the legacy of small neighborhood markets from long ago while harnessing today’s passion and enthusiasm for fresh, local products and a farmers-market-like flair.

The innovative market will emphasize unique offerings in prepared foods, baked goods, seasonal and exotic produce, meats, cheeses and packaged foods from local producers … Brothers Marketplace provides busy customers the ability to grab-and-go items quickly while also offering an experiential setting for lingering and savoring.

The Brothers grocery concept includes prepackaged prepared foods and bakeries, such as this one in Weston.

The Brothers grocery concept includes prepackaged prepared foods and bakeries, such as this one in Weston. (Photo: Roche Brothers)

With a Dunkin’ Donuts and Crunch free weight room sharing the first floor at 240 Elm St., the grocery could have at least 10,000 square feet available – about 1,000 square feet smaller than the chain’s Weston store and the same amount bigger than the one in Medfield, according to media reports.

Some wondered what the store would offer that Davis Square didn’t already have. The most direct competition for the market would be McKinnon’s Meat Market, almost directly across the street at 239 Elm St., and Dave’s Fresh Pasta, a few blocks away at 81 Holland St. But the similar-sounding Pemberton Farms & Garden Center is one-third of a mile away at 2225 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge.

The closest full grocery stores are a half-mile away in Porter Square (a Star Market in the shopping plaza), a little more than a mile away in West Somerville (a Stop & Shop on Broadway) and roughly 1.5 miles away at Alewife (a Traders Joe’s and Whole Foods Markets on opposite sides of Alewife Brook Parkway).

Deliveries, parking concern some

“Try to make the corners. Davis square is no place for a supermarket. They need loading docks,” wrote a user named kvn on Universal Hub. “In addition, where do all the trucks park while waiting for the loading dock? Check out any supermarket and see the amount of trucks waiting to grab the docks.” But a user named cybah pointed to the Davis Family Dollar and CVS stores getting along without full loading docks, asserting, “You’d be surprised how logistics can make this work. It’s not that much of a big deal as you may think, as most deliveries are done in the wee early morning long before many cars and pedestrians are present.”

It was at Patch that parking came into question, with a user named jo saying, “Where exactly do they expect people to park? You can’t park in Davis Square now.”

The site is accessible via a stop on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority red line and by bus – there is a stop in front of the building – but access could be more complicated for drivers. “While there is no parking associated with the building,” says a listing for the 240 Elm St. building on the real estate site LoopNet, “there are three public lots within a three-minute walk and plenty of public spaces surrounding the building.”

Hotel pondered nearby

That could change. Last year Connolly and Davis Square alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz were part of a study accepting proposals for replacing the city-owned, 61-space Day Street/Herbert Street Public Parking Lot – the site of a long-running farmers market – with a boutique hotel holding anywhere from 80 to 126 rooms and including 80 to 144 parking spaces. The site, by far the largest public lot near the proposed store, is about a block away.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone was to select a preferred developer when the Davis Square Hotel Technical Advisory Committee finished its work in April 2013, but public dissatisfaction with the process put the plans on hold in favor of broader talks about neighborhood planning. “There was a consensus that a well-designed hotel in the right location would serve the community well,” said Somerville Times writer Harry Kane in a May 2013 story, “as long as the parking situation was dealt with.”

This post was updated Aug. 19, 2014, to correct the headline.

Previous story: Gym, brewpub may fill long-vacant Social Security building in heart of Davis Square