On a recent warm evening, I had the chance to explore the impressive Assembly Row area in Somerville. What was once a desolate and unwelcoming wasteland has been redeveloped into a mixed-use gem for the area.

Still referred to by locals as Assembly Square, it was the site of a Ford Motor Com­pany assembly plant from 1926-1958, a giant First Na­tional Stores warehouse which closed in 1976, a shipyard, waterfront park, and in colonial times, a terminus for the Middlesex Canal, a way to bring goods to the merchants of the sea via the Mystic River.

Meeting a friend, we were able to park in the large marketplace parking lot near Trader Joe's, Christmas Tree Shops, TJMaxx and Bed Bath and Beyond. Signs warn that parking is only allowed for three hours or be towed, so we made sure to change our spaces on time.

Across the street from the aforementioned shopping area is the premium shopping and lifestyle area. A movie theater, retail shops, eateries and open spaces line the parkway along the Mystic River. A riverwalk has been created with benches, green space, and a playground.

Families were out in force that night, enjoying the warm temperatures, watching the geese along the river, playing in the park, sitting and talking on the steps. It was al­most European in its vibe. The shops for the most part are upscale but not elite, and include Ann Taylor Loft Out­let, Yankee Candle, Nike Out­let, Bath and Body Works and more.

The Legoland Discovery Center is located there which is a great way for families to enjoy the center and then grab a bite to eat. JP Licks has an ice cream shop located in the square which has ample outdoor seating. We enjoyed ramen at Toto Ra­men, but there are barbecue places, Southern cuisine, pasta places, steakhouses and pubs throughout the com­­plex — something for everyone.

Another component of the redevelopment is the office and apartment space. The entire site was once considered for global retailer IKEA, but those plans were scrapped. The new urban destination has enhanced the waterfront and created walking space for residents. While the location of Assembly Row was once fear to cut off the rest of Somerville, the rebirth has coincided with the city’s transformation.

New walkways connect neighborhoods safely to the park space, and families fish the river from the banks, ride bikes on the pathway, and seniors strolled and sat on benches. Not far away is the redeveloped Meadow Glen Mall area in Medford and the new Wellington Station area, all with eateries, shops and retail, connected by a walkway on the bridge over the river.

The next time you have errands to run, consider holding off and heading down to Assembly Row. Take a walk along the river, listen to some music, grab lunch or dinner and then do your shopping. The vibrance rivals any wa­terfront city and is a welcome excuse to get out as the rains disappear.

Assembly Row Parking Update

The 3 hour parking limit signs in the open air marketplace at Assembly Row are in place to deter commuters who park all day and take spaces from retail customers. There are 5 parking garages at Assembly Row that offer 3 hours of free parking, and up to 5 hours much cheaper than a parking meter. It’s after 5 hours that the payment structure is set up for commuters who are leaving cars for the whole day. Detail below:

Less than 3 hours is FREE

  • 3 – 4 hours is $1
  • 4 – 5 hours is $2
  • 5 – 6 hours is $15
  • 6 hours + is $25

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