A view of the planned renovation of Arsenal Park. The following letter is in response to the Sept. 11, 2019 story “Partnership Between Town, Arsenal Yards to Renovate Town Park Over Before it Began”
I want to clear up the facts of the state of our partnership with the Town on the Arsenal Park renovation, and to also put into context the recent exchange between the Town and Boylston Properties that you detailed in your piece. Mark Reich has been a great contributor to our early progress in this hoped for partnership, but his letter to the Town was a one-sided summary of that process. As you know, we firmly believe that Arsenal Yards will be of great benefit to Watertown.
An overhead view of Arsenal Park. The long red building is the Arsenal Mall, and to the left is the Commander’s Mansion and the Arsenal on the Charles complex. A public-private partnership between the Town of Watertown and the developers of Arsenal Yards, which was to speed up renovation of part of Arsenal Park, has ended, Town Manager Michael Driscoll announced Tuesday night. A disagreement over a construction management fee that Boylston wanted to charge the Town to oversee the construction was the main sticking point, according to Driscoll, who read from a letter from the Town’s attorney Mark Reich of KP Law. “Of particular concern, and the primary impetus for this letter, is the insistence of Mr. (William) McQuillan that the Town pay Boylston Properties a 5 percent construction management fee as part of the proposed public-private partnership,” the letter reads.
The following information was provided by Boylston Properties:
Boylston Properties will hold Community Meeting #2 to review and update the community on the status of Building G located within Arsenal Yards. The purpose of this meeting will be to present and discuss a change in use for the building from Residential to Office/Lab. Building G, as proposed would contain approximately 140,000 SF of Lab space (a decrease of approximately 31,500 GSF from the approved building included in the MPSP) plus an additional 50+/- below grade parking spaces under the building G footprint.
Discussion will include the overall massing, proposed design of the building, public access, and the buildings location relative to the Charles River, Arsenal Park and Building F.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Watertown Marriott Residence Inn – 1st Floor Conference Room – 570 Arsenal St. If you have any questions please contact the petitioner: Andrew Copelotti at Boylston Properties,(617) 262-4646 x 112
A view of Arsenal Street from inside Building E, one of the historic structures being redeveloped as part of the Arsenal Yards Project. Boylston Properties seeks a tenant for this “prime spot.” As the new Arsenal Yards begins to take shape, developers have changed plans for the last building in the project, shifting the 130-foot Building G from condos to a lab and office building. In December, Boylston Properties withdrew a request to the Town to allow them to make Building G a 197 foot apartment tower, 67 feet higher than allowed by Watertown’s zoning rules. They will soon submit plans for a new building that they hope to lease to biotech companies.
With approvals for all but one building in the new Arsenal Mall, construction is moving full speed ahead at Arsenal Yards. The public can only access a small portion of the site right now, but Andrew Copelotti, principal with Boylston Properties, led a tour of the site. The walk started over a large expanse of dirt, which includes the former under pass beneath the mall. The entire building that used to sit on top of it is now gone. Where the dirt is located will become Building F, which will include Roche Bros.
The developers of Arsenal Yards have submitted an alternative amendment for increased height for the planned residential tower on the former Arsenal Mall property.
The original proposal called for increasing the allowable height from 130 feet to 197 feet (an increase of 67 feet) for Building G in the Arsenal Yards development. The additional height would allow the condominium building to be 18 stories tall, instead of 12, but would have the same number of units. Also, the footprint of the building would be reduced. The original proposed change to Watertown’s zoning ordinance would apply to properties at least 10 acres in size located anywhere in the Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD), which includes the properties where both malls are located, along with some property along parts of Arsenal Street, Coolidge Avenue, Elm Street and Arlington Street. The alterations proposed by Boylston Properties would ask for the same height increase, but limit it to the areas south of Arsenal Street.
I delivered the following comments to our Town Council on August 14, 2018.:
I am here to talk about Biotech in Watertown. Last week, August 8th, I attended a Planning Board hearing regarding Arsenal Yards. At the hearing, the developer requested approval for façade modifications, changes to the ‘river green’ layout, and a change of use to Building A’s second floor from a commercial office/retail use to a combination of office and R&D use
(https://www.ci.watertown.ma.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4027). Since I could find no staff report, I checked a promo piece for Arsenal Yards, and found that, without receiving approval from the Planning Board, they are already promoting 100,000 square feet of creative office and “lab space” (www.arsenalyards.com/office/). During the meeting, the Planning Board was focused on proposed changes to the windows, entrances, the roof, and the ventilation system.
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.