Last week’s announcement that Ikea is walking away from Assembly Square in Somerville caused a jolt, because for the past 15 years, Ikea was Assembly Square. Ikea has been the redevelopment project’s headliner since it came to town in the late 1990s; without the Swedish furniture retailer, the development at Assembly Square wouldn’t resonate as widely as it does, and the news of a retailer pulling out of the project wouldn’t cause nearly the same sort of stir.
Even so, Ikea’s exit is the best thing that could have happened to Assembly Square. Losing Ikea means the 66-acre riverfront development will likely take longer to build out. But when the project is finished, it’ll be a much better product without a giant blue furniture store looming over it.