LETTER: Resident Worries CVS Will Erode Character of Coolidge Square

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I am unbelievably disappointed that the Town of Watertown appears to be intending to go ahead with plans for a 13,000 sq. foot CVS in Coolidge Square. Such a decision would begin the erosion of the last vestige of true Watertown character that is left here.

I bought a house in Watertown over 30 years ago, after returning from a year+ spent in Greece on a fellowship. On one of my first trips to an Armenian market in Coolidge Square, I saw some refrigerated cheese that reminded me of a fabulous village cheese I had eaten daily in Crete.  I asked the owner what it was. “Ricotta”, he said. I responded disappointedly, “It looks like mesithra.” “Ricotta, mesithra … same thing”, he shrugged animatedly. I was thrilled to live in a town where I could have an experience like that and where so many ethnicities thrive and are represented in small stores.

On my way home from Greece, I traveled to the medieval city of Freiburg, Germany. It is known for a historic medieval wall that surrounds it. As I looked at the wall from the outside, I saw a MacDonald’s built right into it. Shocked, I wondered how on earth a chain store could be allowed there, undermining the character of what surrounded it.

I see the placement of a CVS in our delightfully ethnic village, so evocative of the essence of our town, much the same way. It is in the wrong place, 3 times the size of the stores around it, possibly the new anchor to an “Anywhere USA” strip mall of chain stores. We’ve seen it happen all across the country … the obliteration of character and soul, replaced by nondescript clones.

We missed an opportunity at the Arsenal Mall.  When I heard there was going to be a food court at the new Mall, I was excited at the thought of stalls of Italian, Greek, and Armenian food. Need I remind you of what we got? Imagine if an Iggy’s and Red Lentil had gone in there instead. It would have changed our perception of the Mall. Making the choice to add or remove uniqueness matters.

I have nothing against CVS. I already shop at any of 6 stores within 2 miles of my house. CVS belongs with other stores of similar size and type, not in an area residents would cry over losing, that would concede our identity to this mindless, low standard of American development. There is development to be done in Coolidge Square, but it needs to build on the best of what Watertown is, not destroy it. Before action is taken in haste that cannot be undone, I believe the Town Council needs to call for a moratorium on all development.

Thank you,
Karin Rosenthal

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