Developers of a Proposed Residential/Retail Complex Get an Earful from Residents

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{Originally sent to Watertown News email list page on Feb. 7}Image

A mock up of what the residential building will look like on Arsenal Street. Photo: The Hanover Company.

By Charlie Breitrose

Developers of the site along Arsenal Street met with residents Thursday night and they heard about Watertowner’s concerns – including increased traffic, loss of the possibility a path through the area and trees.

The proposed development would have a four-story apartment complex with 297 units (202 one-bedroom, 89 two-bedroom and 6 three-bedroom), a 30,600 square foot store – likely a market, and 6,777 square feet for boutique stores and a restaurant. The land is owned by Cresset Development. Hanover Company will build the residential complex, while WS Development will build the market. Cube 3 Studio are the architects.

There would be an entrance for the market and another for the apartments and retail stores. A new traffic light would be installed on Arsenal Street between Irving Street and Beacon Park. The light on Arsenal at Beechwood Avenue will be upgraded.

Parking will be under the market and in a garage behind the retail and surrounded by the apartment building. A tree and vegetation covered berm will be planted near the back of the development where it abuts the end of Birch Road. There will also be a rain garden near the back of the apartments that will be open to the public.

Economic Development and Planning Director Steve Magoon credited Cresset for going back to the drawing board after previous proposals did not fit into the area – including a Wal-Mart.


According to a traffic study by Ron Muller of Ron Muller and Associates, the complex will add 2-3 cars per minute to traffic in Watertown Square during peak time. The study also included possible development of land at the corner of Irving Street and Arsenal Street, and another closer to Parker Street.

Some of the residents who packed the Watertown Savings Bank Room at the Watertown Free Public Library were skeptical of the figure. Others added that any more traffic going into the Square would worsen the already bad traffic situation in center of Watertown.

Residents of Beacon Park worried their small street would become a major cut through from Arsenal Street to North Beacon Street to avoid the light at Beechwood Avenue.


A former railroad runs through the property which advocates for the Community Path hoped to use as a key link in the path through town. The plan includes a two-way bike path on the north side of Arsenal Street similar to the on on Concord Avenue in Cambridge near Fresh Pond.

Maria Saiz of the Watertown Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee said the design won’t work. First of all, it is only 8 feet wide and regulations require 10 feet. Also she thinks it is not suited for bicyclists needs because it would force those going eastbound to cross Arsenal Street at Irving Street to stay on the bike path and then cross back where it ends at Louise Street.

She prefers having the path follow the rail bed.

“We are literally giving up one of the key gems in Watertown,” Saiz said. “It links the Eastside of town to the Westside.”

Another resident noted how hard it is to walk along Arsenal Street due to all the telephone poles.

Magoon said the Community Path will not be lost, but it might run along Arsenal Street.

Developers plan to allow people to walk through the development by coming in from Arsenal Street and from Birch Road.


Adding nice trees to the complex, especially along Arsenal Street and near Birch Road are a priority for residents at the meeting. Some requested that mature trees be planted so they don’t have to wait years to grow large enough to create a buffer and provide shade.

Hanover Company’s David North said they would not nickle and dime the landscaping.

While the apartment building will be four stories, architect Brian O’Connor of Cube 3 Studio said the land is a shallow bowl, so the first story will be mostly below street level. In addition the building will only be three stories tall where it sits near public roads – Arsenal Street and near Birch Road.

Watertown resident Joe Levendusky told the developers that town residents are skeptical of new projects after a number sprung up in the West End that have changed the feel of Pleasant Street.

“Sensitivities are heightened,” he said. “That is what you are hearing.”

Town Councilor Tony Palomba asked developers to consider providing improvements as mitigation for the project in areas not in the immediate area of the complex.


North said he and others on the development team will be willing to sit down for more large meetings, as well as ones with specific concerns, such as bicyclists.

Magoon said the project must still go through another site plan review with members of the Town Hall administration before going to the Planning Board. Along with the site plan review the project needs a special permit for a residential building of more than three units before the Planning Board can approve the development.

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