East End Residents Worry Traffic from New Project Will Overwhelm Neighborhood

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Charlie Breitrose

Residents talk before the meeting on the proposed project at 480 Arsenal St. The wall depicts what the new building will look like inside.

Residents talk before the meeting on the proposed project at 480 Arsenal St. The wall depicts what the new building will look like inside.

Charlie Breitrose

Residents talk before the meeting on the proposed project at 480 Arsenal St. The wall depicts what the new building will look like inside.

The former Verizon building has an Arsenal Street address, but it sits right against Nichols Avenue so developers would like to open an entrance on that street – a plan that has East Watertown residents worried.

Representatives from Boylston Properties revealed plans to turn the former truck facility into office space for tech companies on Wednesday evening. The building would have 185,595 sq. ft. of office space with 565 parking spaces, including a one-story parking deck.

The building will have a different look, with lots of glass, and it will incorporate the existing metal beams from the Verizon building, said Bill McQuillin, president of Boylston Properties.

“The industrial nature of the look is the thing prospective tenants are keen on,” McQuillin said. “The tenants could be Kendall Square type of businesses being pushed out of Kendall or they may be existing businesses in Waltham or Burlington who may want to be more urban and have the live-work atmosphere.”

The development will be a LEED project, which seeks to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Solar panels are not likely to be used because the building will use the existing beam and columns. The storm water on the site will be almost completely dealt with on site, without sending into the town’s storm water system, McQuillin said..

The development has been dubbed Linx because Boylston Properties want it to be linked to the surrounding area, McQuillin said, including business along Arsenal Street, to the Community Path which runs next to the property and to Coolidge Square, just north of the site.

“We want Coolidge Square to be an amenity,” McQuillin said. “It is important for our leasing.”

People living on nearby streets – including Nichols Avenue, Bigelow Avenue and Arlington Street – say traffic is a problem now, and they fear the new development will flood their streets with even more vehicles.

“This is already a very, very, very – I cannot say enough verys – congested area,” said Bigelow Avenue resident Diane Devlin. “Opening the (Nichols Avenue) gate to the community is good if they are walking. To open it to traffic would be a nightmare for the community.”

Residents said the area has schools, churches and more. More vehicles would make the area more dangerous for people going to and from those places.

A meeting will be held to talk about the renovation of the Verizon building at 480 Arsenal St., which backs up to Nichols Avenue.

Boylston Properties

An aerial view of 480 Arsenal St., showing the drive from Arsenal Street. Nichols Avenue runs along the top of the property.

The traffic study, presented by Giles Ham of Vanesse & Associates, found that an 313 vehicle will be heading to the new building in the busiest hour during morning commute and 288 during the busiest hour in the evening commute.

They estimate about a quarter of the vehicles will head north, up the streets of the East End, toward places such as Belmont and beyond.

East End Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she likes the proposed building, but said the entrance on Nichols Avenue has never been open to traffic and should not be. The cars would head up Bigelow Avenue or go right on Nichols and then left on Arlington Street heading to one of the busiest intersections in town – Mt. Auburn and Arlington streets.

“It can’t happen, there are too many vehicles,” Kounelis said.

McQuillin argued that whether or not the gate is open, people will drive through the neighborhood to get to the Arsenal Street entrance. It might not be on Bigelow Avenue, but perhaps Dexter Street or School Street.

He said by having people drive through Coolidge Square they will get to know the area.

“They will see what’s there and say why not go to Red Lentil for lunch or Uncommon Grounds,” McQuillin said.

Other efforts will be made to encourage people not to drive to work, including encouraging tenants to offer discount MBTA passes and having facilities to park bicycles and shower facilities for bicyclists.

Developers will have a Site Plan Review meeting next week with the Watertown Planning Department staff. They could be in front of the Planning Board within 6 weeks. McQuillin said the soonest construction would begin would be late summer, and it will take about 15 months to complete.

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