Boylston Properties (BP) is seeking a zoning change at Arsenal Yards. What the published agenda IV. 485 Arsenal Street (click here) amendment fails to disclose is that while BP is again pushing for a height increase to 197 feet at Building G, they are also asking for 80 percent of that height for any additional buildings on their site on the south side of Arsenal Street. They want to create their own separate zone within the RMUD. If approved, those buildings could go to 157.6 feet.
The latest plans by developers of Arsenal Yards to add biotech research and development space to the multi-use development have been put on hold by the Planning Board. Until now, the focus of the development has been creating new retail and residential space on the former Arsenal Mall property. Developers also have plans to renovate the historic brick buildings on the site, including Building A (where Marshall’s is located). Wednesday night Boylston Properties presented a request to change the approved plans for Building A to allow biotech tenants on the second floor. Mark Deschenes of Boylston Properties said that plans changed since Phase 1 was approved by the Planning Board in May 2017.
The Watertown Department of Community Development and Planning sent out notice of the postponement of the proposed amendment to allow additional height in the Regional Mixed Use District. The amendment was submitted by Boylston Properties, the developer of Arsenal Yards. The following is the announcement from the Town:
The RMUD Zoning Amendment for height will not be heard at the Planning Board meeting on August 8. The petitioner has requested that the request be continued until September 12, 2018 Planning Board Hearing. Please spread the word that the request will not be discussed at the August meeting. Read more here:
I am writing in response to Mr. Bockian’s open letter regarding the proposed zoning amendment at Arsenal Yards. I agree with Mr. Bockian that maintaining the integrity of Watertown’s Planning Board is extremely important. However, I don’t believe that BP’s [Boylston Properties] proposed zoning amendment constitutes a threat to local governance, and nor do I believe that the proposed increase in height constitutes a threat to the Watertown community.
Mr. Bockian writes that the zoning debate has been “reopened quickly and opportunistically.” In fact, the RMUD zoning has been in place for over two years, and when it was initially approved BP stated publicly that they had accepted the zoning as a compromise and planned to reconsider it further along the line. Legislators across our nation use this tactic to make timely progress on issues while looking ahead to future achievements. For instance, Massachusetts legalized “civil union” partnerships as a compromise before finally legalizing gay marriage a few years later.
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.
I can understand that a Planning Board or Town Council member might be tempted to say, there’s no harm in approving Boylston Properties’ (BP) proposed zoning amendment which would allow BP and other developers to ask for one or more 197-foot buildings. The officials might say, approving the height amendment doesn’t approve any specific building, we can decide about a specific building at a later time, when we see plans, etc. I disagree there is no good reason to amend the zoning, on the contrary there are good reasons to reject their proposal, and there is harm in changing the ordinance. At BP’s request, the Town changed its zoning two years ago to meet almost all of BP’s needs at Arsenal Yards except BP’s proposal that there be no limit how tall a building the Planning Board could approve. After lengthy and at times heated debate a compromise was reached to allow 130 feet, taller than is allowed in any other part of town.
At its next meeting the Planning Board will hear arguments from the developers of Arsenal Yards about their requested amendment to increase the allowable height in the area to 197 feet. The proposed amendment to the Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD) section of the Zoning Ordinance would increase the maximum height by 67 feet over the currently allowed 130 feet. The maximum height is allowed if a parcel is 10 acres or more. The Planning Board will discuss the amendment on July 11, 2018 at the meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The item is comes after two other cases.
The third time was not the charm, at least not yet, for developers seeking the approval of the Zoning Board to turn the former factory building into an apartment building. The developers of 101-103 Morse Street appeared before the Zoning Board in April and June 2017, and were back again last week. Each time the number of units in the development were cut, first from 48 to 40, then from 40 to 36. The project is located south of Watertown Street in a T Zone (two family). The building, however, started as a factory and then became a massage school, so it is a legal non-conforming use.
The developers of the Arsenal Mall renovation got a mix of opinions Monday night about their request to build a tower even higher than the 130-foot limit in Watertown’s Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD). Watertown residents packed a room at the Arsenal Mall, a short distance from where developers of Arsenal Yards would like to put up Building G, a 197-foot condominium tower. Boylston Properties, the developer of the property, has submitted an amendment for the Town to consider which would increase the maximum height of the RMUD — located around the eastern end of Arsenal Street — by 67 feet. The people speaking in opposition to the height increase outnumbered those who like the idea of a taller tower. Why Taller?