The CVS/Pharmacy proposed in East Watertown would change the area, and make an already bad traffic situation worse, residents said at a meeting on the project.
The store would go where the gas station now sits at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Arlington streets. It would also replace a small office building and the Elks Club and the parking lot would link to the lot on Wells Avenue.
The project would make improve the Coolidge Square area by adding a pharmacy and sprucing up the site, said Bill York, attorney representing the developers at the meeting held at the Apartments at Coolidge School.
“This will be a nice, attractive store, and will be a great improvement to the street,” York said.
The store would blend in with the existing buildings in Coolidge Square, said architect Kevin Patten of BKA Architects. The front wall of the CVS would be a continuation of the facade of the next-door Mt. Auburn Grill. The CVS will have large windows, and use brick and light colored masonry, much like other buildings on the block.
The main entrance will sit on the corner of Mt. Auburn and Arlington, and people will also be able to enter from the back parking lot. Store hours will be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Residents living near Coolidge Square say the traffic near the proposed CVS already backs up greatly during commute hours, with people heading south on Arlington Street taking more than 20 minutes to get through the light at Mt. Auburn Street.
Those living on Wells Avenue worry the most about the store, and changes to the parking lot across the street from their homes. A group of residents met before the meeting to discuss their concerns and come up with some possible alternatives.
By knocking down the exiting buildings and making a new wider driveway, the noise, light and traffic will all be coming from Mt. Auburn and Arlington to Wells Avenue, said David Peckar, a Wells Avenue resident who spoke on behalf of his neighbors.
While people can enter the driveway on Arlington Street, they can only exit to the right. Others must go out through Wells Avenue to get back onto Mt. Auburn Street. Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said that situation would cause gridlock. Wells is a one-way street and backs up in rush hour.
“Approximately three to four vehicles can queue along Wells Ave. before merging onto Bigelow Avenue,” Kounelis said. “In this scenario, vehicles entering and exiting would back-up along Wells Ave. and into the parking lot.”
The traffic study said that few if any new car trips will be made due to the new CVS, according to Robert Michaud, traffic engineer with MDM Transportation Consultants. He expects many people to walk or will already be on the road and stop at the store.
Residents were skeptical about the conclusions of the traffic report. They also said that it did not include traffic counts at Arlington and Grove streets – a significant intersection that is also near the entrance to the Tufts Health Plan garage. It also did not do counts on Wells Avenue.
Some people wanted to see a new traffic study done, perhaps one independently commissioned by the town.
Changes to the lot concerned Wells Avenue residents, too.
First, they worry about delivery trucks coming not only to CVS but also the Dunkin Donuts, Mt. Auburn Grill and other stores on the block. CVS officials said they will use 40-foot deliver trucks, shorter than normal ones. Peckar said other businesses use longer, 53-foot trucks and they will not have the space to maneuver.
“There are no provisions for other trucks. It is not just your building” Peckar said. “They only option for trucks is for them to park on Wells Avenue in front of our houses.”
The plan calls for closing off half of a 50-foot driveway on the east side of Wells Avenue. While half goes into the Wells Avenue parking lot, the other serves a building that houses the Till Autism Support Center. The plan also calls for would blocking the exit onto Arlington Street for the Till Center, which now drives out near the Elks Club.
Peckar said the vans will have to pull in, then back out again onto Wells, because there is no room to turn around. He fears traffic tie ups will be caused.
Few if any residents expressed support to have a CVS come into Coolidge Square. Some noted that the area is made up of small, independent stores.
Resident Joe Levendusky said he would prefer to see a number of smaller stores, rather than the CVS.
The project will be submitted to the Watertown Planning Department and could be on the agenda for the Planning Board as soon as September, York said.