Planning Board OKs Seven Story Parking Garage at Arsenal on the Charles

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The Planning Board gave the go ahead to the owners of the Arsenal on the Charles to build a parking garage that will be 90 feet tall. 

The parking structure will have seven stories, which will reach the maximum height of 79 feet, and then will have a “green” roof with grass or other things growing on it. This roof will increase the height to 90 feet. The roof is needed so the top floor does not have to be plowed when it snows.

The garage will have about 1,800 spaces, and will allow owners athenahealth to remove the same number of spaces from ground level in the complex that stretches along Arsenal Street, said Larry Beals, architect with Beals Associates Inc. which is designing the garage and other changes in the Arsenal. When completed 94 percent of the parking will be in garages, compared to 58 percent now.

Residents worried about the size of the structure. Right now the tallest building in the Arsenal on the Charles is the long one along Arsenal Street, which is about 50 feet tall.

“I think the building is out of scale,” said resident Dennis Duff. “Its hard to imagine how big a building will be, but go down Pleasant Street, behind Watertown Savings, and the garage there is not even half what they are proposing.”

Duff suggested trying to put one or two levels of parking underground.

Part of the first level will be built below grade, said Bridger McGaw, director of athenaenvironment.

Resident Barbara Ruskin asked if athenahealth and other employers could reduce the number of levels and encourage employees to bicycle, take public transit or other transportation besides cars to get to work.

The Planning Board voted 4-0 to approve the seven story garage with the green roof. It now must be approved by the Town Council.

The parking garage is just one of the changes being proposed in the Arsenal Overlay Development District, proposed to redevelop the complex. (Click here to see the proposed plans).

Other features of the plan discussed include:

  • Buildings along Arsenal Street will be set back 25 feet, unless it has a first floor that is used for commercial, community or cultural use
  • Buildings along North Beacon Street will be set back 45 feet and will be screened by a 25-foot wide buffer that can include landscaping, a bike path and an information kiosk

The also proposed changing the traffic flow through the complex. Now cars can come in any entrance and drive around the whole complex. The plan proposes splitting the site into two separate routes.

One would come in and out of Arsenal Street on the west end (near the VFW Hall), and only go through the complex and exit onto North Beacon Street (near Charles River Road). As is the case now, those leaving through the west entrance on Arsenal Street must turn right.

The other side would be U shape with cars able to enter from Arsenal Street both near the Arsenal Center for the Arts and at the far east end of the complex, but only leave through the east entrance.

The Planning Board did not vote on the Arsenal Overlay Development District.

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