LETTER: Resident Writes in Favor of Taller Building at Arsenal Yards

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Editor:

We read Jon Bockian’s letter in the Watertown News and want to take exception to several of his comments as he doesn’t speak for ALL Watertown residents. First and foremost, the proposed changes Boylston Properties is making to the Building G plan are very beneficial to the overall development, increasing open space and providing better access to the Park.  

Mr. Bockian further states that one option Boylston has is to reduce the footprint and keep the height at 130 feet. He knows that this is impossible as Boylston was very clear that reducing the footprint in exchange for height needs to be done for economic reasons, they need to build 188,000 SF. Mr. Bockian also avoids speaking in terms of affordable housing, which would be severely impacted by the overall reduction in SF and thus unit count. Losing affordable units should not be an option.

Finally, Mr. Bockian speaks of a compromise that was made to settle on 130 feet. A number, we should add, he proposed. Boylston was always very clear in the meetings that 130 feet wasn’t the right number and that they would be back. Here we are with a much better plan that improves the overall development. We disagree that his letter represents the opinion “of all residents.”

Thank you,
Gregg Lania
Watertown Resident

LETTER: Planning Board, Town Council Should Reject Amendment to Allow Taller Buildings

13 thoughts on “LETTER: Resident Writes in Favor of Taller Building at Arsenal Yards

  1. I strongly disagree that the tower needs to be or even should be 197 feet. This will drastically change the look of the neighborhood and the view for the rest of us. There has also been no mention of the effects this tower will have on the park and wildlife.
    As a lifelong resident it appears to me, the town always seems to rush into these projects without ever looking at everything. Contractors just have to tell a pretty story and toss around key words like affordable housing and green space and they get whatever they want.

    I would love a nicer space but I am not a fan of the tower at all.

  2. In many of the letters(pro/con more height) there has been mention of a compromise of 130Ft. It is also true that Boylston did not want 130ft but wanted more height. I believe this process is called ‘negotiating in good faith’. The town wanted the height at, I believe, 79ft as zoned while Boylston wanted no height limit. This is the nature of two perspectives which worked on a compromise and came(after a good number of meetings) 130ft. Sounds reasonable to me(though I would not want a building that high in Watertown, this is how a working Democracy works(pros/cons)). The fact that they stated they were not happy with 130ft(either was I:>)doesn’t mean that coming back a year later the town should open up a new round of negotiations on Height(as I inferred before…we did this already). Both sides of the arguments were discussed(pro/con) previously and a decision, compromise made. They can certainly ask for more height but I believe the town has already answered this question which is 130ft.

  3. Open space? for whom? You going to go have a picnic next to that tower? Because that’s where the “open space” is. However, the real open space in the Arsenal Park next door will be adversely affected by this tower. People actually use that space.
    And affordable housing? Are you one of those who thinks we have to build up to have affordable housing? You must be too young to remember the urban renewal projects of the 1960s. They went up and up and ended up total failures.
    The only reason to allow this height increase is NOT affordable housing, is NOT open space, and is NOT better access to the park. The only reason IS to make Boylston Properties a LOT more money. “Needs to be done for economic reasons”? You must be a real dupe.
    They bought this property knowing the height limits. They have received TWO concessions from the town. That is ENOUGH.
    I totally agree with Jon’s basic premise that the public trust, most of which is against this height increase, has been totally eroded by this town’s constant sell-out to developers.

  4. There is only one party that will benefit from the additional height and that is Boylston Properties. The Planning Board should reject this request. The building is too tall for Watertown.

  5. Slightly off topic here, but does anyone know offhand what became of the old Boston Garden score board that was hanging in the food court? At one of the earlier community meetings someone asked what Boylston Properties plans for it were. The question was met with a dismissive “we don’t have room for it”. Don’t get me wrong here, BC has the right to design their project within reason (a taller building G is NOT one of them). If they cannot legitimately accommodate the old score board I can understand that, however I suspect that the real reason is that it doesn’t fit in with Bill McQuillans/Boylston Properties vision for the future of Watertown. At the most recent meeting, I found McQuillan to be arrogant, snobbish, short tempered and disrespectful of long time residents and local history. I can’t speak for all Watertown residents, but I can speak for myself and from waht I’ve read, heard and seen so far, McQuillan and Boylston properties are not someone that I would welcome as a neighbor. This latest attempt at changing the rules is not surprising, and if allowed will set the stage for other developments down the road.

  6. Whether or not 197 feet is the right height for this particular building, the fact is that the new height will apply to this building and the entire RMUD district. We can’t look at this zoning change through this building along. It has far more implications.

  7. Gregg Lania – The 130’ building has approximately the same square footage as the 197’ building (the width vs. height argument), the same number of units – 122, and thus the same number of affordable units at 15%. You continually say “we” in your letter Gregg. May I suggest that you “all” review the specs again? More floors = more river and park views = more expensive condos for BP to bring to market = more profit. This is the $$$ view location, the money shot. Another critical issue – this zoning amendment as re-presented by the developer would allow for more 197’ buildings on plots of 10 acres+ in the RMUD (Regionsl Mixed Use District). BP will also be able to build another tall building over their Miller’s Ale House property. Is this your vision for Watertown?

    As to the benefits you mention. Definition “Open Space in architecture, urban planning and conservation ethics: Open plan, a generic term used in interior design for any floor plan, especially in workspaces, which makes use of large, open spaces and minimizes the use of small, enclosed rooms. Landscape, areas of land without human-built structures.“ The open space you are referring to will be wider, easier paved access from the Home Depot parking lot to the building entrance for cars, delivery vechicles, and parking. Please don’t confuse open space with green space. The “green space” is Arsenal Park which belongs to Watertown and is under the jurisdictional care of the Conservation Commission.

    Now consider this headline “HFF Announces $324M in Construction Financing and Joint Venture Equity for the Redevelopment of Arsenal Yards in Watertown, Massachusetts.” This is a big money project which will greatly impact our Town. Now please note: Mitigation to the Town for traffic improvements $2,059,000, for water/sewer improvements $810,000, and for Arsenal Park $0.00. Yes, zero $ for location, location, location. Why was there no mitigation negotiated especially after BP had listed Arsenal Park opened up/revitalized as a 500K Town benefit before they were approved? Condo units at present market rates would be: 500K+ to 2M+ and counting. Does all this raise any concerning questions for you?

    The Arsenal Yards project is being marketed as an urban village, a destination site with 425 apartments/condos, shops, office space, hotel, movie theater, grocery store, etc. http://www.arsenalyards.com. How many folks will live, work, eat, play, shop, and visit Arsenal Yards? An unknown at this time. Transportation is hinky at best and traffic is a constant complaint in Town. We all know there will be more traffic. Arsenal Park, which definitely needs improvement, will be further stressed and in need of serious ongoing maintenance/trash pickup given the increase in activity, particularly on weekends. How has this been factored in? On the other hand, will it be fun to have a movie theater, better shops, restaurants, a grocery store, and some nightlife? Many folks say yes!

    There was an enormous amount of citizen-led education, community input, and negotiation around the creation of the RMUD two years ago. People were both passionate and thoughtful about the development pressures in Town and the need to maintain some sense of Watertown as a different kind of community. To be seen as an opportunistic extension of Brighton, Cambridge, Boston or as the new Somerville was not a welcomed part of the vernacular. Were you able to attend any of those meetings?

    So please realize, as others have already mentioned, 130’ was a long and difficult good faith negotiation. To have the Town renege, recalibrate, renegotiate – use whatever word you like – two years later will be a severe, perhaps fatal wound to the public trust. And that, given everything else that is going on, will truly harm our Town, our sense of community and neighborly relations for years to come.

    We Are All Watertown!

  8. Mr. lania states that “Losing affordable units should not be an option”; I agree, it shouldn’t be an option now and it shouldn’t have been an option last year when the town granted BP’s request to change the use of Building B from residential to a hotel resulting in the loss of 12 affordable housing units… another one of BP’s bait and switch moves, yet the beat still goes on, and BP wants us to dance to their tune once again.

    • Thank you, Alan, for raising an excellent point. I’d also like to point out that the Planning Board could have required an additional 12 affordable housing units elsewhere on the property in exchange for granting the amendment. Given the size of this development, BP could certainly afford to have replaced the loss of the 12 affordable units. We also saw a significant increase in the traffic produced by Building B due to the change.

  9. Mr Lania
    You are wrong.
    The changes to building G has very little impact on the total development.
    Both the open space and access are very marginal at best.
    The changes to the remainder of the RMUD with taller buildings has no benefit as has been demonstrated in the recent meetings by the inability of the advocates to state any benefits, beyond the improvement of the view from the park. Hardly a reason for such a consequential change.

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