Thursday, June 13, 2024

A pedestrian walks March 30 by the Union Square Pizzeria and the space that will become a CultureHouse pop-up. (Photo: Marc Levy)

A vacant storefront at 64 Union Square, Somerville, will be repurposed starting Jan. 10 into a “living room for the community,” said CultureHouse and the Union Square Neighborhood Council on Wednesday. The partners said the pop-up – with ideas from the community being taken now through December – should be a free one-stop-shop for health care resources, performances, community meetings and gatherings, information for new residents, a senior and youth center and a library.

CultureHouse Union Square, funded by a federal Covid-relief grant through the City of Somerville, will “serve as a pilot to help inform and shape a long-term community center long sought by the Union Square neighborhood,” according to a press release.

CultureHouse has reused or enlivened spaces in Cambridge’s Harvard Square in 2019 and in its Kendall Square after that. It’s also operated in East Somerville, the organization’s home base.

The center will reuse the space that was once the Ruby Rogers Center, which served people in recovery and struggling with mental health and addiction issues from 1985 until it was defunded under Gov. Charlie Baker in 2017. For years it’s been an empty storefront available for rent between the Union Square pizzeria and a Bank of America ATM.

For the Union Square Neighborhood Council, the revived space will be a way to keep people feeling connected to a neighborhood that’s changing rapidly under development around a new green line MBTA rail station and labs and residential towers being built by US2.

“A large-scale intergenerational community center is critical to reinvigorating a sense of community and identity,”said Ann Camara and Michele Hansen, co-chairs of the Union Square Neighborhood Council, “especially in a neighborhood where increased demand for housing has resulted in the displacement of many long-term resident and local businesses, making the need to rebuild social connections ever critical. The pop-up gives the Union Square community the opportunity to see and advocate for what we have been missing in our neighborhood.”

CultureHouse Union Square will function as a gathering space for all ages with regular programming, collaboration and informal events and gatherings, they said, and is meant to uplift businesses and creative people. The idea is to “build social connections in a place where they feel welcomed, represented and connected to the neighborhood and to the arts, culture, programming and businesses that make Union Square the vibrant and diverse neighborhood it is today,” said Aaron Greiner, executive director of CultureHouse and an East Somerville resident.

An opening community survey is at culturehouse.cc/union, and organizers said more information about the launch will be available this fall.